Directors for the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) have given their approval to a proposed tax increase meant to benefit the Burns Lake Public Library, the Lakes District Museum and cultural activities in the region.
The proposed increase is now likely headed for a referendum.
It’s meant to provide a measure of stability to groups that may otherwise turn to the RDBN for grants to provide their services, said director Eileen Benedict, who represents the Francois-Ootsa Lake rural area. “We are trying to support them in providing those services,” she said.
She said that factors including cuts to provincial funding for libraries have made the increase necessary. “They’re in a crunch,” she said. “They need the funding.
The funding arrangement would also provide money for cultural events such as music festivals and concerts in the Village of Burns Lake and nearby rural areas, according to a report by the RDBN.
Average increase of $62.50
The new funding bylaw — which was carried through its first, second and third reading at the RDBN board meeting on May 24 — would increase taxes by about $62.50 for an average household valued at about $125,000, according to the report by regional district staff.
The tax would apply to residents of Burns Lake and electoral areas B and E — the Burns Lake and Francois-Ootsa Lake rural areas, respectively.
The maximum taxation rate would be 55 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, but the rate initially applied in 2019 would be lower, according to the RDBN report — about 50 cents. Directors would able to vote on raising the rate if service providers indicated that they needed more money, said Benedict.
At 50 cents, that would still be an increase of about 11.5 cents over the current taxation level for the museum and library, which stands at 38.2 cents of assessed value.
But Benedict said that as cultural groups benefit from a more stable source of revenue, they will become less likely to request grants in aid, resulting in a possible reduction to the tax that funds grants.
When a potential reduction in grant money is taken into account, the money taxed and spent would probably balance out, Benedict said.
Assent of electorate needed
The new bylaw will require assent of the electorate before it comes into force.
Benedict and fellow director Bill Miller — who represents the Burns Lake rural area — have said they want to take the question to residents at a referendum on October 20, when municipal elections are already taking place — a way to reduce costs for the poll.
”We want to hear from the people,” said Benedict.