Regional District taxes likely to rise

  • Mar. 5, 2008 2:00 p.m.

By Alex Rinfret–It looks like the regional district will be asking islanders for significantly more taxes and garbage fees this year to cover mounting expenses in the islands waste system. Directors gave first reading to a budget at their Feb. 22 meeting that will raise $1.1-million in taxes this year, 13 percent more than the $971,000 they ordered taxpayers to pay last year. Administrator John Holland is now revising this budget, so that figure may change. Directors will vote on a final budget at their next meeting later this month, Mr. Holland said. “The big issue is the solid waste system,” he said. “It’s in trouble, for sure.” According to the preliminary budget, the regional district is proposing to raise the amount contributed by the two band councils for the garbage system to $65,000 each. Currently Old Massett pays $55,000 and Skidegate almost $58,000. User fees will also be going up – the preliminary budgets projects that the regional district will collect almost 60 percent more in user fees in 2008 than it did last year. The biggest additional expense the garbage system will incur this year is opening a new area of the landfill, projected to cost $100,000. The preliminary budget also includes new money for an additional person to work at the landfill, Mr. Holland said. But much of the additional taxes and fees will simply to go covering the deficit the system has incurred in the past couple of years. In 2007, the islands garbage system cost approximately $200,000 more to operate than there was to cover it, and there is a shortfall from previous years which brings to total deficit to $260,000. At the same time, some regional district directors believe they should be paid more. Mr. Holland has included in the preliminary budget a pay hike of $1,500 per year for each of the four electoral area directors, including Area D director Ian Hetman and Sandspit director Travis Glasman.Mr. Holland said the electoral area directors tend to have more to do than the municipal representatives, because they are the only local government representative for their area. Currently, all 10 directors on the regional district board receive remuneration of $7,878 annually, plus $150 per board meeting attended. The chair receives an additional $5,890 and the vice-chair an extra $1,560. Directors can also receive $75 for attending committee meetings (although Mr. Holland said they sometimes do not collect this), and receive per diems when they attend business out of town. The total budget for the 10 directors, including their remuneration, travel, per diems and health insurance, comes to $193,000.