When you open your tax bill in a couple of weeks, you may want to ask your local politician why so many of your hard-earned dollars go to the Capital Regional District, often to provide services duplicated by one or more of the 13 municipalities.

In 2017, the cost to deliver regional district services by the CRD is $1,245 per capita, an eye-popping 425 per cent more on average than residents of Metro Vancouver Regional District at $284 per capita.

“Why do taxpayers in the capital region pay four times more on average what people in Metro Vancouver pay for in regional services?,” asks Stan Bartlett, chair of Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria. “The issue raises more questions than answers.”

“Why such a dramatic difference between the two regions? Are there additional services that are thought essential? Are programs provided efficiently and effectively? Do CRD services receive less scrutiny by taxpayers than those at delivered by the municipality? Are CRD wages for 1,000 employees too high?” Bartlett asks.

While CRD operating costs are considered lower than the provincial average, the economics of supporting regional, sub regional and local services is challenging, concludes a governance presentation and organizational review in Nov. 2016.

Your CRD tax rate varies of course depending on what the municipality chooses from an ‘a la cart’ menu of CRD services. Eighty per cent of services have four or less jurisdictional participants, and 55% of CRD have one participant, according to the CRD.

Unfortunately many of the most critical initiatives – such as regional transportation, economic development and a regional growth strategy – are not subscribed to by all of the 13-member municipalities.

Recently, the CRD approved an increase to the operating budget of 8.9 per cent and a 50 per cent increase to the capital budget – partially attributable to a new sewer treatment facility assessed against the core communities.

Meanwhile, Metro Vancouver – which represents 21 municipalities and an electoral district – increased its regional district take by 5.3 per cent.

Per capita cost varies dramatically

Let’s compare the cost of providing regional services in the Capital Regional District with a  population of 383,000 (CRD), and that of largely urban Metro Vancouver 2,463,431 (2016 Census):

Capital Regional District – In 2017, there’s a $477-million combined operating and capital budget, for 13 municipalities and 3 electoral areas, administered by about a 1,000 employees. Staff complement includes 530 regular staff, 41 term positions, and 441 seasonal and casual staff.

CRD’s budget are mostly driven by costs for water services, regional parks, sewage and management waste, affordable housing, hospital services, regional planning – a growing grand total of 210 services.

Importantly, CRD finances differ fundamentally from Metro Vancouver in that it operates the Capital Regional Hospital District with an operating budget of $30-8-million and a capital budget of $31.6-million.

Metro Vancouver – In 2017, there’s a $699-million combined budget for 21 municipalities, an electoral district and a First Nation, administered by 1,500 employees. It’s composed of four regional entities: Greater Vancouver Water District; Greater Vancouver Sewerage & Drainage District; Greater Vancouver Regional District and Metro Vancouver Housing Corporation.

Metro Vancouver’s budgets are driven primarily by the costs of delivering utility services in partnership with member municipalities. Drinking water supply, sewerage and management of solid waste represent the majority of both operating and capital budgets, and are financed through utility fees. The regional budget supports the regional parks system, as well as other services including air quality management and regional planning activities.

Metro Vancouver Housing Corporation is financed almost entirely through rents paid by tenants, the same case in Victoria with the Capital Regional Housing Corporation.

That Old Blue Bridge

The Chinese company that’s building the new Johnson Street Bridge has seen it’s earnings plummet and stock slide.

Jiangsu Zhongtai Bridge Steel Structure Co. Ltd. (ZTSS), contracted by PCL to build the bridge, didn’t have a good year, according to its recent annual report.
According to Morningstar, in 2016 the return on assets, equity and invested capital are all negative and have dropped, below the five-year average and industry index. The stock is selling for around $14 US on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange.
The first shipment of parts of the newly fabricated bridge is scheduled to depart China as early as May 29th and a second shipment is due by the end of June.
 
On a happier note, the controversial $106-million and counting Blue Bridge has been immortalized in song by The Bills of Victoria. Described as high-impact global acoustic roots music, the song ‘That Old Blue Bridge’ appears on the  from the album Let Em Run. Listen to the song on You Tube or facebook, it’s a great video if you haven’t heard it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wMh56MM2NHQ

 

What’s a billion

If you’re a City of Victoria taxpayer be advised you are part owner of almost $1-billion in property. The city has compiled a list of all its properties, the location and current assessment. The grand total is valued at about $919-million, or closer to $1-billion in market value. Here’s the list:  City Owned Properties

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

In a close 4-3 vote, Oak Bay council increased taxes by 2.8 per cent.  Some councillors were opposed to using the money in a new infrastructure set up from federal gas funds to immediately spend on a couple of infrastructure projects. In order to pass the budget and prevent a tie vote, one councillor made an objection and left the meeting allowing the motion to pass prior to budget deadline. It’s very unusual for councils to not give unanimous support to a budget document…..Allowing relatives of Langford city councilors and employees to sit on city committees has created a bit of rift among councillors over conflict of interest….The CRD has agreed to put Mayor Lisa Help’s name forward in a bid to join Big City Mayors’. Among the roles of this powerful group, a part of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), is to meet with the federal government about common issues like infrastructure or homelessness….The Duncan North Cowichan Citizens’ Assembly on Amalgamation tabled its report to Duncan and North Cowichan Councils. It concluded: “We have carefully considered the technical information and different scenarios for the future of our two municipalities, including closer service integration. We believe that Duncan and North Cowichan will be stronger together, and so our consensus as an Assembly is to recommend amalgamation.” See report at https://www.masslbp.com/journal/black-deck

WHAT’S COMING UP

To make it easier for our supporters we’ve added a PayPal button at the bottom of this page that accepts all major credit cards. Thank you for your generous support. Also join us Tuesday, June 6 from 12 to 2 pm for lunch and meeting at location TBA. Partners and interested supporters are welcome to sit in, RSVP to grumpytaxpayers@telus.net
Sincerely, The Grumpy Taxpayer$ Team