Taxes will rise after BC Ferries assessment deal, but nowhere near as much as they might have

The Comox Valley Regional District is relieved the Province settled a dispute around property tax assessments of BC Ferries' terminals.

The Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD) is breathing a bit easier after hearing the Province has settled a dispute around property tax assessments of BC Ferries’ terminals.

“This is a good outcome,” Wendy Byrne, CVRD manager of financial planning, said Friday. “I mean, a better outcome would be 100 per cent but this is a pretty good outcome.

“Our anticipation before this is they would be brought down to almost nothing so the full amount would be absorbed by everybody else but this is positive in our mind.”

The total assessed value of BC Ferries terminals in the Valley — Little River, Buckley Bay, Hornby Island and the two on Denman Island — is about $5.7 million. The CVRD receives nearly $28,000 per year in property tax revenues from these properties, and the Comox-Strathcona Regional Hospital District (CSRHD) receives over $10,700 per year.

The CVRD feared these revenues could drop to nearly nil, but now expects them to drop by about 20 per cent.

Late last year, the Property Assessment Appeal Board (PAAB) decided in favour of dropping the assessed value of two BC Ferries properties in West Vancouver from $47.7 million to just $20 because of a lack of market demand for the properties. The municipality expected $250,000 less per year from the property tax revenue source, plus it was told to repay BC Ferries $250,000 for the past three years because the decision was retroactive to 2010.

Other municipalities, including the CVRD, feared the decision could set a precedent, meaning they could basically say goodbye to property tax revenues from BC Ferries terminal properties within their jurisdictions.

The B.C. Assessment Authority launched court action to try to overturn the West Vancouver terminal property decision, but the B.C. government stepped in recently and settled the dispute. Now, most BC Ferries properties are set for a 20-per-cent decrease in assessed value.

Byrne noted Friday the CVRD has not received official notification as to the new assessed value for ferry terminal properties within the CVRD. But, because most other BC Ferries properties tax assessments dropped by 20 per cent, the CVRD expects a similar number here.

The CVRD uses property tax revenues from the ferry terminals to provide funding to a variety of services in the Comox Valley, such as the Victim Services Program, Comox Valley Community Justice Service, Search and Rescue – Comox Valley, recreation, transit, Comox Valley Airport Service and the Comox Valley Art Gallery.

Whatever the decrease in BC Ferries property tax revenues, Byrne said the programs will continue to receive the same funding — but less revenue coming from BC Ferries means more funding will have to come from other property tax revenues such as residential and commercial.

“The 20 per cent will then be spread over the rest of the properties,” she said. “They would absorb those funds that BC Ferries would not be paying for.”