December was filled with more 2024 Budget reviews and cell antenna concerns. The Budget included much more additional staff being hired, additional taxpayer money to be used for the now depleted forest reserve fund since logging stopped in 2019 awaiting decisions based on a UBC study promoting the usage of the forest for climate credits, more tax money for the climate, and so much more.
Every Budget year there is debate over placing more money into the Climate Action Reserve, and every year your tax dollars get put in on a 4-3 vote. Motion: Use Taxpayer’s money for the Quamichan Lake Reserve fund and the Climate Action and Energy Reserve fund in 2024 as part of the 2024-2028 Financial Plan. (Opposed, Caljouw, Findlay, Manhas) CARRIED
In the 2024 Budget draft staff suggested a part-time position (approx. 4 hours a day) for one to two people to clean up the corridor. Instead of reaching out to other programs such as Restorative Justice or other groups to possibly integrate this into their working model, taxpayers are on the hook for more of the mess the Province created. Motion: THAT the Committee of the Whole direct staff to include the following ongoing supplementals in the 2024 Operating Budget: $95,000 for the Corridor Clean-up (Opposed: Findlay, Manhas) CARRIED
In a show of good faith and solidarity with citizen’s financial struggles, Cllr. Findlay brought forward a motion that was seconded by Cllr. Manhas: THAT the Committee of the Whole recommends that the Council freeze their wages for 2024. (Opposed: Douglas, Istace, Justice, Toporowski) DEFEATED
Staff recommended: THAT Council approve the five-year License of Occupation with Rogers Communications Inc. for the installation of a rooftop antenna on the Stonehouse Estates Water Reservoir Tower. After over 20 pages of letters sent to council, a petition with 100 signatures, and presentations to council (see longer story in this edition) The motion was DEFEATED. With Istace being the only counselor in favour of the installation.
Staff recommended that council give a grant of $2900 to the Cowichan Estuary and Restoration Association (CERCA) for a microplastic study. Cllr. Justice and Mayor Douglas argued for this grant stating that it was in alignment with the OCP *Restoration and Protection*, while Cllr. Manhas argued against this grant stating that CERCA was known in the past to be against the businesses that resided there such as the sawmill. Cllr. Findlay suggested that a microplastic study would be more of a provincial jurisdictional study. Motion CARRIED (Opposed: Findlay, Caljouw, Manhas)
Staff recommended parcel tax increases and the doubling of excess water usage fees for utilities (which we knew would happen as soon as they separated the utilities from our taxes) Water Parcel Tax Increases: Increase Chemainus 6% per year for ten years; South End 7% per year for ten years; Sewer Parcel Tax Increases: Chemainus 4% per year for ten years; Crofton 6% per year for ten years; South 7% per year for ten years; Increase metered water rates (amounts over minimum) for all water utility systems by 6% in 2024 and an additional 0.5% per year thereafter for nine years. Cllr. Findlay, while agreeing we need to fund our infrastructure, posed the question as to why we could not cut other taxpayer-funded programs that were not part of the infrastructure to help with these costs. Ie the large reserve funds we have for Climate Action and Quamichan Lake etc. Cllr. Manhas opposed the tax hikes, stating that every little dollar counts to people these days especially as we look at having a 5.18% – 5.8% property tax hike this year already. Cllr. Istace stated that we need to look years down the road for our infrastructure needs instead of today. Motion CARRIED (Opposed: Findlay, Manhas)
Council heard a presentation from Urban Systems (a private consulting group – taxpayer funded) regarding MODELS of proposed climate risks and disasters waiting for us around the corner. The motion was to pass this report on to the Environmental Advisory Committee (a committee consisting of a few layman volunteers and headed by Cllr. Caljouw). After the presentation, filled with scary-looking graphs and predictions, Cllr. Findlay asked if these graphs could be changed to percentages for phase three – ie “this is the percentage of likelihood of this event happening”, as opposed to big, red graphs. Motion CARRIED (Opposed Findlay, Manhas)