The Cariboo Regional District is considering a $56.5 million budget for 2022 that would see an average overall 5.2 per cent tax increase for homeowners.
CRD Chair Margo Wagner said the proposed increase is mainly to help pay for emergency planning across the region, noting the regional district is playing “catch-up” following the 2017 wildfires and subsequent floods, fires and land slippage across the Cariboo.
In 2021, she noted, the regional district spent 6o days on wildfires and 45 on floods. For every day of active emergencies, she said, there are three days of recovery.
“We’re behind the eight-ball all the time trying to get emergency planning,” Wagner said. “We’re basically just catching up. I know it’s a huge jump and a lot of people don’t think it’s necessary but these emergencies are going to be ongoing.”
The actual increase for individual tax bills depends on where people live and what services are available in their areas. Those without streetlights or fire protection, for instance, will not see an increase.
The CRD is seeking public input on the budget, which goes to the board for final approval this month, by this Friday, March 4.
Wagner said it’s important to get the emergency planning programs up to speed, as the province continues to change how it responds.
At the same time, the CRD’s Red Cross grants for the 2017-18 wildfires have now expired.
The CRD has hired three additional staff people for its emergency services department, but Wagner said work is needed to set up a communications plan with First Nations, as well as plan for emergencies in terms of recovery, mitigation work, fire-smarting and mapping flood zones “so we’re not caught unawares.”
She encourages everyone to get a hard copy of the budget, which is available at the CRD office or local libraries. Other increases are proposed for administration (8.1 per cent), library, culture and heritage services (2.9 per cent) and protective services (6.2 per cent).
Those wishing to provide feedback are asked to call the chief financial officer at 1-250-392-3351, or 1-800-665-1636, or email at email@example.com.