The regional district has forwarded a questionnaire to local governments to help the CVRD board determine whether a specific regional service should be established to address homelessness, based on the results of the non-binding referendum presented at the 2014 civic elections.
Responding to the questionnaire at its last council meeting, Courtenay Council favoured David Frisch’s motion to support and participate in such a service. Erik Erikkson was opposed. While it’s clear people support the idea of helping the homeless, Erikkson is reluctant to support the service, or process, until he knows exactly what it will entail.
Bob Wells, on the other hand, considers the questionnaire to be the “next step” that answers questions concerning the issue.
“I’m quite excited to see this as a turning point,” he said, noting the inaction of senior governments concerning homelessness.
Council also supports a maximum tax rate of five cents per $1,000 of assessed property value should a service be established. Valley-wide, this would generate about $504,000 per year.
At the election, voters were given three options for a tax to address homelessness: pay nothing, up to $5 or up to $10 for a home assessed at $300,000. The latter garnered the most votes.
Amounts would total between $225,000 and $440,000 per year.
The tax rate supported by Courtenay council amounts to $15 for a home assessed at $300,000 – an option not given on the referendum question.
“I’m concerned about these numbers because they’re totally different numbers,” Mayor Larry Jangula said. “It hits the businesses. We know they’re struggling, and they have no vote. I find that to be a little unfair.”
Manno Theos, noting a “double hit” to businesses, concurs that changing the amount listed on the non-binding question is “troublesome.”
Rebecca Lennox considers the amounts small compared to the prices of policing and medical.
“We already pay a huge amount of money through having such a high homelessness situation,” she said.
A district report notes that homelessness-related costs to taxpayers are felt in such areas as law enforcement, the legal system, health care and shelter.
City CAO David Allen reminded council that the questionnaire relates to a policy decision at this point. Its results are to be presented at the CVRD committee of the whole meeting June 23.