Comox Valley Economic Development getting more funding than in 2011

The Comox Valley Economic Development Society will receive $60,000 more than it got last year.

The regional district committee of the whole approved a four-year financial plan that recommends allotting $977,027 to the Comox Valley Economic Development Society budget for 2012, a $60,000 increase from the 2011 requisition. The amount exceeds an original requisition of $946,500 to cover maintenance, utilities, property taxes and other unanticipated costs associated with the Vancouver Island Visitor Centre, which has opened unofficially just below the Cumberland interchange on Highway 19. CVEDS executive director John Watson, appearing before the committee Tuesday, said the centre has already exceeded expectations in terms of visitors and construction jobs. Until the centre has operated for a few years, uncertainties will remain with regard to assessed value of the facility, property taxes payable to Cumberland, utility costs and revenue offsets from event management services, according to a CVRD staff report. The regional district is entering the third of a five-year agreement with CVEDS. Annual operating cost grants had been provided to the Comox Valley and Cumberland Chambers of Commerce for visitor centre services, the North Island Film Commission and to CVEDS for administration, marketing and tourism. As of April 1, CVEDS will be responsible for all visitor services. CVEDS president Murray Presley has asked Cumberland council to exempt the visitor centre from paying property taxes. He is surprised council has not granted the request. “We resubmitted but haven’t heard back,” Presley told the committee. “We hope they reconsider.” Cumberland director Gwyn Sproule — noting council never indicated one way or another about the tax exemption request — said council will discuss the issue Monday during the budget process. Cumberland’s portion of the $977,027 requisition is $40,950.Nearly $400,000 of CVEDS’ million-plus budget goes towards wages, benefits and training. It is funded by property taxes. This year’s requisition equates to $27.55 per residential value of $330,000. Cumberland Chamber president Meaghan Cursons has requested the Village deny the tax exemption request from CVEDS.While she recognizes the visitor centre will serve the interests of tourism businesses in the region, Cursons questions how well the centre will serve tourism in Cumberland, considering it is a competing business selling refreshments and gifts. Regarding Presley’s assertion that other visitor centres in B.C. are exempt from tax, Cursons said this rationale makes sense when the funding authority is also the taxing authority. In this case, however, the village is a “minority funder but the sole taxing body.”So property tax is a strong cash positive for the Village,” Cursons states. “This development took advantage of a favourable exemption for new commercial development cost charges. They should pay commercial taxes.”Her letter was referred to the budget process. reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com