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Rural residents no 'free riders,' says FVRD official

Rural residents of the Fraser Valley Regional District are going to pay more in total tax requisitions than municipal residents in 2011, according to a FVRD financial report.

Which should end the "free riders" charge leveled by the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce when it lobbied that city to pull out of the FVRD.

"We don't owe the municipalities diddly-squat," Dick Bogstie, head of the FVRD's Community & Regulatory Services Committee (formerly the Electoral Area Services Committee) and the director in Area F, said Tuesday.

He agreed Abbotsford and other municipalities in the region were "probably subsidizing the electoral areas to some extent" before the funding formula was changed as part of a major re-structuring of the regional government.

"The tax increase in rural areas is actually going to be fairly small," he said. "But it took some soul-searching, and some changes in the way we do business."

Taxes collected from the seven electoral areas of the FVRD will total $6.5 million in 2011, compared to the total $5.3 million requisitioned from the six municipalities, according to the report.

Last year, municipal members paid $6.6 million while $5.7 million was collected from the electoral areas.

Bogstie said the requisition in electoral areas is going up "based on a very complicated formula of who does what and who gets what."

For instance, electoral areas are charged for space and staff at the regional office building, unlike municipal members who have their own city halls.

"It's not unreasonable," he said. "(The space) is only used by the electoral areas, so the electoral areas should pay for it."

Taxes are also collected only if a rural area or a municipality takes part in a service provided by the regional district. The more services, the more tax is requisitioned.

For instance, Hope residents pay for recreational services funded by the regional district, but Chilliwack River Valley residents do not because they use recreational services funded by the city.

In a municipality, the regional taxes are also spread out over a larger population, so individual residents pay less.

Bogstie said electoral area directors recognized residents in their areas could be hit with "horrendous" tax increases under the new formula, so they worked to pare down the FVRD's budget "so the pain to the rural tax payer ... is absolutely as minimal as we can make it."

Under a restructuring of the regional government, $450,000 in savings was made through a "limited" hiring freeze, which saw a number of staff positions eliminated by attrition rather than layoffs.

The number of committees was also reduced as the FVRD "recast" its operations into two divisions, the Regional and Corporate Services and Community and Regulatory Services.

 

Here's the 2011 tax requisition breakdown for electoral areas:

Area A will pay a total $409,821 or about $312 for an average assessed residential property.

Area B will pay a total $1.2 million or about $394 for an average residential property.

Area C will pay a total $696,220 or about $242 for an average residential property.

Area D will pay a total $294,301 or about $378 for an average residential property.

Area E will pay a total $760,148 or about $330 for an average residential property.

Area F will pay a total $436,523 or about $301 for an average residential property.

Area G will pay a total $311,273 or about $3363 for an average residential property.

In Hope, because the FVRD funds services like the recreation centre and the airport, an average assessed residential property there will pay about $270.

In Kent (Agassiz), an average residential property will pay about $34.

In Harrison, an average residential property will pay about $43.

In Mission, an average residential property will pay about $44.

In Chilliwack, an average residential property will pay about $35.

In Abbotsford, an average residential property will pay about $29.

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