Worries about tax burden if Comox Valley regional district doesn’t get grants

Property taxes in Courtenay could double in the near future unless the regional district gets big grants for major water and sewer projects.

Courtenay mayor Larry Jangula told the regional district’s committee of the whole Tuesday that “we have to be vigilant … our taxpayers cannot afford this.

“That’s why I’ve been concerned about spending for the past number of years,” he added.

The regional district is facing a $115 million bill for a new water filtration plant, plus untold millions more for sewer system infrastructure.

The topic came up during a “grant status report” prepared by regional district staff.

Comox councillor and director Ken Grant said the bill for water and sewer projects looms at between $180-200 million.

“At some point we need to get a commitment from the federal and provincial governments. They have mandated a great deal of these projects that we have to do. It really puts operations of our town and regional district in limbo … these tax bills could be enormous changes to taxation,” he said.

“We have no idea at this point what the future brings. If we had a commitment from them we could at least plan. I think it’s really difficult for us to be spending money on anything with these two things hanging over our head,” said Grant.

The Comox director added that grant money is already being clawed back at the federal level.

“I think it really throws us into a horrible position as we try to plan for the future,” he added.

Regional district CAO Russell Dyson said funding from the clean water fund was due to be announced in July, but has now been set back to early next year.

He said staff have “been working diligently” with Island Health, the federal government and others to prepare for that grant funding opportunity.

Dyson said information that will be forthcoming at the September and October water committee meetings “will get your mind at rest.”

Grant said while he was glad that “we at least have a strategy”, the town has upcoming budget work to do.

“We could get whacked with this entire bill … until we get firm commitments,” he said, adding that the regional district shouldn’t go ahead with any of the projects if senior government help isn’t forthcoming.

Electoral Area C director Edwin Grieve said that’s why “face time” is so important at the upcoming Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention, an event attended by cabinet ministers and senior government officials.

“We have to put the political pressure on,” he said. “If we can’t get any of this money … we’re not moving forward.”

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