Frequently Asked Questions - Sorrento-Blind Bay Incorporation Study

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The Incorporation Study Advisory Committee has undertaken the analysis required to understand the service, governance, financial, and taxation impacts that would be expected as a result of a decision by local electors to incorporate a Sorrento-Blind Bay municipality.

Over the course of this analysis, the Committee received several questions on different aspects of the incorporation study, including local services and the study area. Additional questions are expected during the community engagement phase between August and October, 2021.

This page — Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) — presents and answers all questions that have come and that will come to the Committee, including questions that are asked by members of the public at Committee meetings and events, that are raised with Committee members outside of meetings, and that are posed by residents in local media and other public forums. This FAQ is a "living" resource that will be added to regularly as questions arise.

FAQ

Original FAQs

Why is the incorporation study being undertaken?

The incorporation study is being undertaken to understand what a decision by electors in Sorrento and Blind Bay to incorporate a new Sorrento-Blind Bay municipality would mean for residents in terms of:

  • local service provision (i.e., who would provide services to the community)
  • local governance (i.e., who would make decisions for the community)
  • local government finances (i.e., how much would services and government cost)
  • property taxes (i.e., how would property tax bills change).
How did we get to this point?

The question of governance in the Sorrento community has been important to area residents dating back to 1990. 

Between 1990 and 2004, there was communication between the CSRD and the Ministry of Community, Sport, and Cultural Development on the topic of an incorporation feasibility study for the Sorrento community. A chronology of this timeframe is available here

At that point, CSRD records indicate that no activity took place on this file from 2004 until 2010. The concept of incorporation was then advanced again in 2010 through the efforts of the Sorrento and Community Association (SACA). They approached the BC Ministry of Sport and Cultural Development with a request for funding to examine the feasibility of incorporation for the community of Sorrento.

Additional background on the efforts involving the potential incorporation of Sorrento between 2010 and 2015 are available through a report from Charles Hamilton, Chief Administrative Officer, which can be viewed here.

The decision to do the most recent incorporation study can be traced back to 2015. In that year, the CSRD Board of Directors approached the Ministry of Municipal Affairs to review local governance and service provision in Electoral Area C, the largest (by population) electoral area in the Regional District.  The Board sought to understand the views of Area C residents on local service provision and local governance. Were residents happy with the local services provided by the Regional District, as well as with the process for making local decisions? Should changes be considered? 

In early 2016, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs provided funding for a South Shuswap Governance Study to explore these questions. A 12-member Area C Governance Committee conducted the year-long study, which included extensive engagement throughout Area C. The Committee concluded that while residents in many parts of Area C — including, for example, in White Lake, Sunnybrae, Notch Hill, Eagle Bay, and Tappen — were content under the current regional district form of local government, there was considerable interest on the part of residents in Sorrento and Blind Bay to learn more about incorporation. The desire for local decisions to be made locally, rather than at the CSRD, was an important factor for these residents.

The Governance Committee recommended to the CSRD Board that a restructure (incorporation) study for Electoral Area C be undertaken, and that the study examine two options:

  • the incorporation of a portion (i.e., Sorrento and/or Blind Bay) of the electoral area
  • the division of the current electoral area into two electoral areas.

The CSRD Board accepted the Committee's recommendation and requested funding from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs for a restructure exercise. The Ministry responded by commissioning, first, a boundary analysis to recommend a boundary for a potential new municipality. This analysis was completed in early 2019 with the identification of the Sorrento-Blind Bay Incorporation Study Area. In late 2019, the Ministry then provided funding for the incorporation study that is now underway.

How was the boundary chosen for the incorporation study area?

The choice of boundaries in any incorporation study is a difficult undertaking that involves the consideration of a number of factors. In the case of Sorrento-Blind Bay, boundaries were developed through a separate boundary analysis exercise commissioned by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. The analysis examined four restructure scenarios:

  • incorporation of Sorrento as a separate municipality
  • incorporation of Blind Bay as a separate municipality
  • incorporation of Sorrento and Blind Bay, together, as a single municipality
  • division of Electoral Area C into two areas, each with its own Director.

A boundary for each restructure scenario was developed based on an consideration of 10 factors, including:

  • future community development plans and land use categories, as outlined in the Electoral Area C Official Community Plan
  • existing settlement patterns and land use regulations
  • population and population density
  • local government services and service area boundaries
  • potential future infrastructure developments
  • local road networks
  • property assessment classes
  • property assessment values
  • Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) and farm property inventories
  • community input (from the South Shuswap Governance Study).

The factors, taken together, were used to draft potential boundaries. The potential boundaries were then assessed using a range of criteria associated with the different factors. A recommended boundary for each restructure scenario was produced from the assessments. As a final step, the boundary analysis presented a high-level overview of service finance, governance, and property tax implications associated with each recommended boundary.

The results of the boundary analysis were presented to the CSRD Board of Directors for review. Based on this review, the Board recommended the Sorrento-Blind Bay scenario, with its associated boundary, for further study through a Sorrento-Blind Bay Incorporation Study. The Board also recommended that, in the event incorporation were not chosen, Electoral Area C be divided into two electoral areas using the boundary recommended for the Two Electoral Areas scenario. The Ministry accepted these recommendations.

Why does the study area include some agricultural properties?

The presence of ALR and farm properties was one of the factors considered in the development of the study area boundary. Evaluation criteria attached to the factor called for:

  • incorporation scenarios to minimize the amount of ALR land included within municipal boundaries
  • incorporation to exclude Class 9 farm properties from municipal boundaries

The assessment of the study area boundary in the boundary analysis concluded that the boundary, "partly meets" the ALR and farm criteria. The analysis noted that some agricultural properties have been included, "to avoid creating 'property peninsulas,' to align the recommended boundary with the local service area boundaries, to capture outlying commercial properties, and to accommodate potential future infrastructure." 

Exclusion of all ALR and Class 9 properties is not possible.

It is important to emphasize that the choice of the study area boundary took into account a range of factors, not only the presence of ALR and Class 9 farm land. Efforts were made to ensure that the selected boundary at least "partly meets" all of the evaluation criteria associated with the different factors. The boundary does not "fully meet" all criteria.

The analysis being undertaken by the Committee's consultants will determine what a decision to incorporate would mean for ALR and Class 9 farm properties in terms of property taxes and services.

Can the study area boundary be changed?

The current Sorrento-Blind Bay Incorporation Study Area boundary was developed as part of the boundary analysis exercise commissioned by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs in 2018. Based on the recommendation of the CSRD Board, the boundary was confirmed by the Ministry, then assigned to the Incorporation Study Committee. Any change to the boundary must be agreed to, and ultimately implemented, by the Ministry.

In response to a recommendation by the Committee, the Ministry may be willing to consider a change to the boundary. Any such recommendation, however, should be supported by a strong rationale, should highlight a special circumstance, and should be informed by the results of the service and taxation impact analysis now underway.

Can I opt out of the incorporation study area?

Changes to the study area boundary that are made to exclude certain properties will not be considered until the impact analysis has been completed. At that time, property owners may make their views known to the Committee.

The Committee will need to consider all requests carefully in view of the results of the analysis, and will need to determine if special circumstances exist.

If the Committee supports an opt-out request, the Committee must recommend a boundary change to the Ministry. The Ministry makes all decisions related to boundaries.

Who will decide if a new municipality should be created?

The decision to create a new municipality is made by Cabinet on the recommendation of the Minister of Municipal Affairs. Under the terms of British Columbia's Local Government Act, however, the Minister may only recommend the incorporation of a new municipality if eligible voters within the study area vote in favour of incorporation. Voters within the study area, therefore, will determine through referendum if a new municipality should be created.

Only voters within the Sorrento-Blind Bay Incorporation Study Area will participate in any referendum that occurs on incorporation. Electors outside of the study area will not be responsible for the costs or decisions of a new municipality, and therefore will not have a vote. The rules that govern voting are set by the province in the Local Government Act.

Eligible voters include electors who have lived inside the study area for at least 30 days prior to the time of voting, and who have lived in British Columbia for at least six months prior to voting. In the Local Government Act, these voters are referred to as "resident electors."

"Non-resident property electors" are also identified in the Act. These voters are those who meet the BC-residency requirement (six months), and who have owned property within the study area for at least 30 days prior to voting. Only one person qualifies as the non-resident property elector in cases where a property is owned by more than one person.

What is the role of the Incorporation Study Committee?

The Incorporation Study Committee is an objective, fact-finding and oversight body that is responsible for:

  • overseeing all phases of the Incorporation Study, and all of the work undertaken by the consultants
  • providing opportunities for electors of Sorrento and Blind Bay to review, understand, and question the study's findings with respect to the anticipated service, governance, financial, and taxation impacts of incorporation
  • considering all input provided by residents over the course of the study
  • submitting a final report to the CSRD Board
  • making a recommendation to the Board on an incorporation referendum.

The Committee is comprised of 12 residents of Sorrento and Blind Bay, each of whom was appointed by the CSRD Board of Directors based on an application for membership. John Smith (Blind Bay) was elected by the Committee members to serve as Committee Chair; Patrick Earley (Blind Bay) was elected to serve as Vice Chair.  Electoral Area C Director, Paul Demenok, sits on the Committee in an ex-officio capacity (and, thus, does not have a vote).  The consulting team, led by Neilson Strategies Inc., reports to the Committee. CSRD staff, represented by Lynda Shykora (Deputy Manager, Corporate Administration Services) provides support to the Committee.

What would incorporation cost taxpayers?

A key purpose of the incorporation study is to understand and document the expected cost impact on local taxpayers of a decision to create a new Sorrento-Blind Bay municipality. 

Costs associated with individual services will be determined and publicized over the course of the analysis phase of the study, which will stretch from January to August, 2020. The full expected cost impact will be known at the end of the analysis, and will be presented to the public during the community engagement phase in the fall of 2020.

What opportunities will residents, community groups, and stakeholders have to review information and ask questions?

A key role of the Incorporation Study Committee is to ensure that the community — residents, community groups, and stakeholders — receives the information and understanding it needs to make an informed decision on incorporation. Opportunities for the community to receive, review, and question information include the following:

  • Committee Meetings — Every meeting of the Committee is open to the public and includes, as an agenda item, an opportunity for questions from community members in attendance. Committee meetings are advertised by the CSRD online (csrd.bc.ca), in media, and through social media.
  • Website — All background materials, all Committee meeting packages, and all analyses (i.e., service sheets, issue sheets) are posted online at csrd.bc.ca. Questions can be submitted through a website link.
  • Hard Copy Materials — A complete hard copy of all materials is available for review at the South Shuswap Branch of the Okanagan Regional Library, the Sorrento Centre office, and the CSRD office in Salmon Arm.
  • Community Engagement Process — In the fall of 2020, the Committee will undertake an extensive two-month engagement process that will include open houses, a mail-out, a moderated discussion, and several other components.
What would happen to residents who live outside of the study area in the event of an incorporation?

If local electors within the study area chose to incorporate, residents outside of the new municipality would continue to exist within Electoral Area C of the CSRD. Residents would continue to be represented by the Electoral Area C Director, and would continue to look to the CSRD as their local government.

Electoral Area C would be smaller than it is today and would have a smaller assessment base (along with lower costs). The full service, governance, financial, and taxation implications for the smaller Electoral Area C, outside of the Study Area, will be determined as part of the Incorporation Study.

Would a new municipality have ongoing obligations to the CSRD?

The CSRD, similar to every Regional District, is a federation of electoral areas and municipalities. A new Sorrento-Blind Bay municipality would automatically become part of the CSRD federation, and would be represented on the CSRD Board of Directors by one Municipal Director who would be appointed by the new Municipal Council.

The new municipality would participate in CSRD "mandatory" services (e.g., Administration, Solid Waste Planning) that all member municipalities and electoral areas are required to join. In addition to these mandatory services, the new municipality could choose to participate in sub-regional services that the CSRD currently provides in the South Shuswap (e.g., Emergency Planning). The new municipality would pay towards and help to govern all services in which it chose to participate.

The service sheets that are being developed by the Committee's consultants make assumptions with respect to the CSRD services that the new municipality would join. All assumptions will be confirmed or amended by the Committee.

If there are concerns about governance, can the CSRD address them by adding a second Electoral Area Director to the current Area C?

British Columbia's Local Government Act sets out the structure and rules of regional district and municipal governance. The Act is clear in stating that each electoral area is represented by one, and only one, Electoral Area Director. An electoral area that seeks a greater level of political representation has the option, subject to provincial approval, to pursue local government restructuring through:

  • the incorporation of all or a portion of the electoral area
  • the transfer, through an electoral area boundary change, of a portion of the electoral area to an adjacent existing electoral area
  • the division of the electoral area into two separate areas.

On one occasion in the past, the province did appoint three Electoral Area Directors to represent the Okanagan West Electoral Area when it had a population of close to 30,000. This decision was taken, however, as a special transition measure in anticipation of the ultimate incorporation of the City of West Kelowna. 

If we incorporate, what will happen to our fire department or other services?

It is assumed that the fire department and many other local services would become services of the new municipality. Assumptions regarding service provision are made in each of the service sheets that will be presented to the Committee. Anticipated service, governance, financial, and tax impacts for each service are also outlined in the individual sheets.

What would be the name of the new municipality?

No decision has been made regarding the name of any potential municipality.  Any decision on naming would be made following the decision by electors to incorporate, and would involve the community.

What would incorporation mean for garbage collection?

It is assumed that local services such as fire department, garbage collection, etc. would become services of the new municipality. That said, it would be up to the new municipal council to determine if it will provide a mandatory garbage collection service or not. If they decide to do so, then the rules of the municipality would apply. However some municipalities do not have a mandatory garbage collection service, rather leaving it to a private contractor to offer a garbage collection service to the municipality’s residents.

FAQ update

February 2020

If incorporation does not proceed, will Electoral Area C remain as it is today?

No.  If the electors of Sorrento and Blind Bay chose for whatever reason to remain unincorporated, Electoral Area C would be split into two separate electoral areas (i.e., Area C1 and Area C2). The default, "Two Electoral Areas" option was identified by the Electoral Area C Governance Committee at the end of the 2017 South Shuswap Governance Study. This 2017 Committee, comprised of 12 residents from communities throughout Electoral Area C, recommended that Area C be divided into two separate areas in the event that incorporation did not proceed. The recommendation was based on the view that the existing Electoral Area C is too large to be served effectively by only one Electoral Area Director. The CSRD Board and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs endorsed the recommendation.

The Service Sheets that are being developed by the Sorrento-Blind Bay Incorporation Study Committee for the current Incorporation Study identify the service, governance, and tax impacts that would apply to residents in Areas C1 and C2, in the event that incorporation did not proceed.

Why isn't there more information for residents regarding the Two Electoral Areas option?

As its name suggests, the Incorporation Study is focused primarily on the implications of incorporation for the residents of Sorrento and Blind Bay. In all of the Service Sheets being developed for the study, however, the service, governance, and tax impacts associated with the Two Electoral Areas option are also identified.

It is important to remember that the Two Electoral Areas option — that is, the division of Electoral Area C into two Areas C1 and C2 — is the default option that will occur only if the electors of Sorrento and Blind Bay choose to remain unincorporated.

Do the businesses located in Electoral Area C pay a business tax to the Regional District?

Every parcel of property in British Columbia is placed by BC Assessment into one property tax class. Residential properties are placed into Class 1; business properties are placed into Class 6. All Class 6 business properties, in electoral areas and municipalities, pay the property tax that is assigned to that class.

A key difference between the business property taxes in electoral areas and municipalities, however, concerns the tax rate. In electoral areas, business pay the Class 6 property tax rate that is identified by the regional district. In every regional district, the Class 6 rate must at a ratio of 2.45 to the Class 1 (residential) rate. Each regional district will determine, for each local service, the Class 1 rate to charge. The business rate is then set automatically using a multiplier of 2.45 on the Class 1 rate. This multiplier, along with multipliers for other classes of non-residential property, is mandated by the province under the Regional District Tax Regulation.

Municipalities have the authority to set not only their own Class 1 (residential) rate, but also all other rates for other classes of property, including Class 6 (business).This authority allows municipal councils to use property taxes as policy tools to pursue different goals. Within the CSRD, different municipalities use different Class 6 multipliers. Sicamous, for example, uses a multiplier of 2.15, whereas Salmon Arm uses a multiplier of 2.82. Revelstoke applies a Class 6 multiplier of 4.93, whereas Golden uses 2.16. A new municipal council for Sorrento-Blind Bay would have the authority to set its own Class 6 property tax rate.

In most municipalities, businesses are required to pay a business license fee in addition to their property tax. Fee levels typically vary based on type of business or other factors — a typical fee is around $100 per year. It has been assumed in the Sorrento-Blind Bay Incorporation Study that the new municipality would have a business license function. The CSRD does not have such a service for Electoral Area C.

Is the Incorporation Study Committee in place to advocate for a particular outcome? Or, is it expected to remain neutral with respect to the incorporation option, and focus on an objective assessment of service, governance, and tax implications?

The Incorporation Study Committee is responsible for:

  • overseeing an objective, comprehensive analysis of the service, governance, and tax implications associated with the potential incorporation of Sorrento-Blind Bay,
  • ensuring that the residents of Sorrento and Blind Bay understand and have the opportunity to question the results of the analysis — that is, understand what incorporation would mean to them in terms of local services, decision-making, and property taxes.

The Study Committee is very much expected to remain neutral with respect to the governance options. The Committee is not in place to advocate for any particular outcome of the analysis.

To what degree should the Incorporation Study Committee make service decisions that would normally be made by the council of a new municipality?

The Study Committee does need to make assumptions regarding staffing and other costs that would be incurred to enable a new municipality to provide the same range and level services that are provided to Sorrento and Blind Bay today. In all cases, assumptions are suggested by the Committee's consultants based on practices in place in other municipalities, and research on the specific services in question.

In general, the Committee should not make assumptions related to significant changes in the range or levels of service provided, the establishment of major new services or facilities, the withdrawal of the future municipality from inter-governmental cost-sharing arrangements (in cases where such arrangements would not be automatically be rendered unnecessary by a service of the municipality), or major changes to existing land use patterns and development policies. Decisions in these types of instances would be made by, and should be left to, the new municipal council.

 

How will additional costs related to infrastructure, salaries for mayor, council, and staff be presented?

All infrastructure costs will be identified in the individual service sheets where relevant. The sheet on Parks and Recreation, for example, contains information on capital reserves that would be used to help fund improvements (e.g., playgrounds) in parks. Future sheets on local roads will include information on road infrastructure improvements that can be anticipated. A future sheet on administration services will address the question of a municipal hall. Sheets do not generally comment on the potential need or desire for new infrastructure projects that are not planned today, or that would result in significant changes to existing service levels.  Decisions on these improvements would be decisions for the new council (see previous question and answer above).

Salary costs for staff who would be involved in the operation of services are included in service costs identified in each of the service sheets. Costs for managers and staff who are needed to administer the municipality (e.g., Chief Administrative Office, Director of Finance, Receptionist) will be addressed in the sheet on administration. A separate sheet on governance will include salary costs for mayor and council.

FAQ Update

March 2020

How was the average property assessment of $400,000 determined?

The $400,000 typical residential property was chosen, as a round number, to represent the 2019 average residential assessment in Area C of $402,388. This figure was readily available to the consultants from BC Assessment and CSRD tax reporting.

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs publishes a range of municipal taxation data sheets each year. One sheet presents “Taxes and Charges on a Representative House” for each municipality. The data, unfortunately, are not presented for electoral areas.  Representative house values for nearby and CSRD municipalities in 2019 were as follows:

  • Salmon Arm - $398,835
  • Chase - $276,558
  • Sicamous - $326,954
  • Revelstoke - $446,821
  • Golden - $301,010

During the engagement phase of the study, public materials will show tax implications for a range of properties and property values.

Who would pay for incorporation if it were chosen? All of the taxpayers in Area C, or just those who live within the Sorrento-Blind Bay Incorporation Study Area?

In the event of incorporation, any costs that are incurred, over and above current cost levels, to provide local services to residents in Sorrento-Blind Bay would be paid solely by taxpayers within the new municipality.*

Electoral Area C residents who live outside of the Incorporation Study Area would not pay towards these costs.

On a related point, the vote to proceed with incorporation would only include residents within the Incorporation Study Area. Residents outside of the Study Area would not be given a vote.

As part of the study, the Committee is identifying service cost implications for residents of Electoral Area C who are outside of the Study Area. The cost of certain services for these residents may be lower without Sorrento-Blind Bay in the service area; alternatively, the cost of other services could be higher. Once all services have been assessed and total cost implications for Area C residents have been identified, the Committee (and community) will be able to gauge any net-cost impact on taxpayers outside of the Study Area. The province is ultimately responsible for ensuring that there are no significant adverse cost impacts on taxpayers outside of the Study Area.

* Note that the province would provide a certain amount of financial assistance to the new municipality to defer cost impacts associated with certain services (e.g., local roads).

 

Will the public boat launches be improved and better maintained?

Public boat launches in the South Shuswap are currently maintained and improved by the CSRD Community Services Department as part of the Electoral Area C Community Parks Service.  The current level of service provided to all parks, including the boat launches, is determined by the CSRD Board of Directors based on a variety of factors, including input from seven-member Electoral Area C Parks Advisory Committee, the Area C Director, the community and CSRD staff. 

If voters in Blind Bay and Sorrento decided to incorporate, decisions on service level would be made by the new seven-member municipal council, with input from staff and the community. Council could choose, as well, to establish an advisory committee of residents. 

Decisions to increase the level of maintenance for boat launches and/or to improve the facilities would be determined by council based on input received.

FAQ Update

March 2021 to August 2021

If we were to incorporate, wouldn't we just be adding an extra level of bureaucracy and politicians, along with all of their salaries and costs? Wouldn't we be duplicating existing efforts at great expense?

A decision to incorporate would result in the election of a six Councillors and one Mayor in place of one Electoral Area Director.  The decision would also result in the establishment of a municipal administration with close to 15 staff members across all services.  All of these positions are outlined in the various Service Sheets, including the one on Administration Services. 

The new municipality would be responsible for paying all of the costs associated with the Council and administration.  Many of these costs and the positions they represent, however, would replace rather than duplicate existing efforts.  Governance and service delivery responsibilities that would be taken on by the new municipality are responsibilities that, by and large, rest today with the CSRD Board and staff.[1]  The responsibilities and the costs that go with them would be transferred to the new municipality from the CSRD at the time of incorporation.  Taxpayers of Sorrento-Blind Bay would begin to pay the municipality for the services transferred to the municipality.  At the same, taxpayers would stop paying the CSRD for the services.

The transfer of services to a new municipality would prompt the CSRD to reduce the resources it uses for service delivery in order to ensure that remaining electoral area taxpayers did not face tax increases. 

If the report has not yet been completed and the meetings are ongoing why is the Regional District Director for Area C approaching businesses and organizations to discuss incorporation? Has the Committee already made a decision?

The Committee is a neutral body and will not identify any preferred option.  The Electoral Area C Director is a non-voting, ex officio member of the Committee.  The Committee’s role is, first, to ensure that the consultants’ analysis of the implications associated with incorporation is conducted properly and fully.  With the analysis completed, the Committee’s role shifts to focus on community engagement to ensure that the residents of Sorrento-Blind Bay understand what incorporation would mean in terms of service provision, service governance and finance/taxation.  At the end of the engagement process, the Committee will make a recommendation to the CSRD Board with respect to a referendum.  If a referendum on incorporation is recommended, the Minister will order a referendum and ask electors to decide one of two options:

  • incorporation of a Sorrento-Blind Bay municipality
  • division of Electoral Area C into two Electoral Areas — C1 and C2 — with the CSRD continuing in its role as local government for the Sorrento-Blind Bay area.
Will the public boat launches be improved and better maintained?

Public boat launches in the South Shuswap are currently maintained and improved by the CSRD Community Services Department as part of the Electoral Area C Community Parks Service.  The current level of service provided to all parks, including the boat launches, is determined by the CSRD Board of Directors based on a variety of factors, including input from seven-member Electoral Area C Parks Advisory Committee, the Area C Director, the community and CSRD staff. 

If voters in Blind Bay and Sorrento decided to incorporate, decisions on service level would be made by the new seven-member municipal council, with input from staff and the community.  Council could choose, as well, to establish an advisory committee of residents. 

Decisions to increase the level of maintenance for boat launches and/or to improve the facilities would be determined by council based on input received.

Can we confirm that there are "hundreds of acres of available non-[ALR] land within the incorporation boundary" for commercial development?

There are hundreds of acres of land in the Sorrento Village Centre that could conceivably be developed for commercial uses, depending on the wishes of any future municipal council. There are also tracts of land in Blind Bay and in other parts of the Study Area that are not in the ALR and could be proposed for future development or re-development to other uses.

In the event of Incorporation, who specifically (by role), would be in the transition team until a new council is voted into office?

The transition team in the event of incorporation would consist of a consultant who would serve as an interim Corporate Officer to put in place the basic legislative, financial, taxation, administrative and governance frameworks required.  The interim staff member may be assisted by an Administrative Assistant. 

The interim Corporate Officer would work closely with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and the CSRD to establish the basic frameworks prior to the inaugural Council being elected.  The Provincial Offer of Assistance includes a grant that is specifically dedicated to pay the transition team cost.

Received your mailout today. It is very hard to make any kind of informed decision on the subject without any associated costs and increase in the mil rate. Please send some estimated numbers.

Examples for figures requested in this question included:

  • cost to establish a municipal hall and staff it and its location
  • cost of 6 councillors and mayor
  • cost to establish a building department and staff it
  • cost of a works yard and where it will be located
  • cost of equipment for the municipality (trucks graders backhoes excavators shop personnel)
  • where has the proposed municipality got property zoned for industries to establish to help the tax base 
  • what is the cost of road repair and rebuilding of existing poor roads
  • police and associated costs
  • costs of park maintenance
  • management costs for the proposed municipality

Answer:

The mailout that was delivered to households in July, 2021, was an introductory document designed to provide a high-level overview of the two governance options, and an outline of the community engagement opportunities planned through October, 2021.  The mailout was not intended to provide detailed cost data or comparisons to enable residents to choose between incorporation and the two electoral areas option. 

Detailed data and comparisons will be presented, however, in the coming weeks as part of the engagement phase of the Incorporation Study.  Indeed, many of the data and comparisons are available already to review in the various Service Sheets produced by the Committee as part of its comprehensive analysis on the options.  Each sheet features a particular type of local government service (e.g., local roads, police, planning & building, parks & recreation, administration), and presents estimates of staffing, facility and equipment costs that would be incurred by a new municipality to provide the service.  All of the costs are brought together into the Multi-Year Budget for a new municipality, including the costs associated with six Councillors and one Mayor, and the costs to have a municipal hall.

All Service Sheets are at csrd.bc.ca along with other information from the analysis.  At upcoming Open Houses, and in the comprehensive Overview mailout to be distributed in early October, cost information will be summarized for residents to review.

I have questions about this flyer sent to us. Are there going to be more answers like how much our taxes will go up?

The mailout that was delivered to households in July, 2021, was an introductory document designed to provide a high-level overview of the two governance options, and an outline of the community engagement opportunities planned through October, 2021. Detailed data and comparisons will be presented in the coming weeks as part of the engagement phase of the Incorporation Study.  As noted in the response to the previous question, many of the data and comparisons are available already to review (csrd.bc.ca) in the various Service Sheets produced by the Committee.  Each sheet features a particular type of local government service (e.g., local roads, police, planning & building, parks & recreation, administration), and presents estimates of staffing, facility and equipment costs that would be incurred by a new municipality to provide the service.  All of the costs are brought together into the Multi-Year Budget for a new municipality, including the costs associated with six Councillors and one Mayor, and the costs to have a works yard and municipal hall.

Also available online is a set of sample property tax notices for residential properties in Sorrento and Blind Bay.  The taxes shown on these notices would be sufficient to pay all costs associated with the incorporation option.  Further, the taxes are calculated based on the existing property tax base in the Incorporation Study Area, which is approximately 98% residential. 

Efforts taken in a future municipality to diversity this tax base by attracting commercial and/or industrial investment would help to shift a portion of the tax burden off of residential property owners.  The same shift would occur as a result of diversification efforts under the unincorporated governance option.

Finally, a municipal council would have the authority to adjust the tax ratios that apply to different classes of property.  This authority could be used by the council to help shift a portion of the tax burden from residential to other property types.  In unincorporated areas, tax ratios among property classes are fixed by the province and cannot be adjusted by local government.

If we were to incorporate, wouldn't we just be adding an extra level of bureaucracy and politicians, along with all of their salaries and costs? Wouldn't we be duplicating existing efforts at great expense?

A decision to incorporate would result in the election of a six Councillors and one Mayor in place of an Electoral Area Director.  The decision would also result in the establishment of a municipal administration with close to 15 staff members across all services.  All of these positions are outlined in the various Service Sheets, including the one on Administration Services. 

The new municipality would be responsible for paying all of the costs associated with the Council and administration.  These costs and the positions they represent, however, would be replacing rather than duplicating existing efforts.  Governance and service delivery responsibilities that would be taken on by the new municipality are responsibilities that today rest with the CSRD Board and staff.  The responsibilities and the costs that go with them would be transferred to the new municipality from the CSRD at the time of incorporation.  Taxpayers of Sorrento-Blind Bay would begin to pay the municipality for the services transferred to the municipality.  At the same, taxpayers would stop paying the CSRD for the services.

The transfer of services to a new municipality would prompt the CSRD to reduce the resources it uses for service delivery in order to ensure that remaining electoral area taxpayers did not face tax increases.  Efforts taken by the CSRD, post-incorporation, to adjust its own costs would be a matter for the CSRD Board to decide.  Such efforts, however, would help to ensure that cost additions to one jurisdiction (i.e., the new municipality) were offset to a large degree by cost reductions in the other jurisdiction (i.e., the CSRD).

It is very expensive to bring in extra politicians and staff because of all the benefits and the pensions. I understand that politicians receive large pensions. I don't want to pay for those.

The costs that would be associated with a municipal council and a municipal administration are fully included in the costs to provide the municipal services set out in the various Service Sheets.  The taxes that would be paid by residents for the services are set out in the Sample Tax Notices.

In British Columbia, all regular municipal employees (i.e., full-time staff and regular part-time staff with a minimum number of hours) belong to the Municipal Pension Plan and receive pensions for their service.  Local government politicians are not members of the Municipal Pension Plan or any other province-wide plan.  There are ten municipalities in British Columbia that have chosen to establish limited pension-like plans for their own elected officials that meet certain requirements.  All ten of these municipalities are located in Metro Vancouver.  The remaining 152 municipalities do not offer any pension programs for elected officials.

Are there any communities in BC that have incorporated, only to then decide to return to being unincorporated?

There are no known examples in British Columbia of communities that have disincorporated after having chosen to incorporate — certainly none from the past several decades.  There are a few examples of municipalities that have chosen to amalgamate with other municipalities to create larger cities.  In the early 1990s, for example, the municipalities of Abbotsford and Matsqui in the Fraser Valley amalgamated to form a larger City of Abbotsford.

With incorporation, wouldn't all of our taxes increase to the point that we would be paying what people do in larger cities?

Property taxes are a function of many factors, the most significant of which are the range and level of local government services provided to the community.  High-tax municipalities of all sizes are those that provide a broad range and high level of local services to their residents, based on residents' demands and willingness to pay for services.  Many municipalities, in response to the demands and expectations of residents, provide a limited variety of services at basic levels.  These municipalities would be considered low-tax jurisdictions.

Residents' demands and expectations related to services are important points to consider.  Communities that expect and demand additional services and higher levels of service can expect to pay more in local taxes than communities with more modest service demands.

Incorporation is one factor that influences property taxes, but is not the major factor.  A decision by local electors to incorporate Blind Bay and Sorrento would result in some property tax increase, at the current range and levels of service.  This increase would be caused primarily by the required shift in responsibility for local roads from the province to the new municipality.

What can we say about demographics in the Incorporation Study Area?

The Current State Report, presented to the Incorporation Advisory Committee in February, 2020, provides an overview of the Study Area and the two Electoral Areas that would exist in the event that incorporation were rejected.  The Ministry of Municipal Affairs' reduction to the Study Area boundary in June, 2021, slightly affected the population and other measures attributed specifically to the Area in the Report; the changes, however, were minor.

Figure 2.2 in the Current State Report identifies a Study Area population of 4,701.  With the reduction to the boundary made in June, 2021, the population is believed to be closer to 4,575.  Information from Statistics Canada (2016 Census) shows that the median age in Blind Bay and Sorrento, at approximately 60 years old, is significantly higher than the median age of 43 for the province as a whole.

This area has a very large retirement community. It would seem you have not taken this into consideration when establishing dates of mid-October for open houses and a possible referendum in late November.

The in-person Open Houses will have live-stream capability to allow residents who happen to be out of the community in October, 2021, to watch the presentations and to ask questions.  If a referendum is recommended by the Committee and ordered by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, electors will be able to vote up to one month in advance at an early ballot in person, or any time in advance by mail.

It will be important to hold a referendum before the end of 2021 in order to minimize the time between the community engagement efforts and the vote, and to give the Ministry the time it would need to implement a "yes" outcome (if such an outcome occurred) prior to the October, 2022 general local election.

Why is the boundary for a new municipality different from the boundary for Area C1?

The Sorrento-Blind Bay Municipality boundary is considerably smaller than the boundary for C1 for a number of reasons, three of which are particularly important:

Roads — The provincial Ministry of Transportation & Infrastructure (MOTI) is responsible for all local roads in electoral areas throughout British Columbia, including in any future Area C1.  When an unincorporated area chooses to incorporate, responsibility for roads shifts from MOTI to the new municipal government.  This transfer of responsibility gives municipalities control over decisions related to roads; however, it also imposes considerable costs onto local taxpayers.  The area for a Sorrento-Blind Bay Municipality was sized to minimize the total number of local road kilometres that municipal taxpayers would be expected to maintain and fund.  The same consideration was not a factor in setting the boundary for Area C1.

Agricultural Land Reserve — An effort was made to minimize the amount of ALR land in within the Incorporation Study Area.  Such land is protected from urban and semi-urban development that is more likely to occur in a municipality than in an electoral area.

Class 9 (Farm) — Properties classified by BC Assessment as Class 9 (Farm) enjoy a greater range of tax exemptions in unincorporated areas than within municipalities.  Accordingly, an effort was made to minimize the number of such properties in the Incorporation Study Area.

At one of the recent meetings it was stated that there would be information sheets outlining the pros and cons of both incorporation and the two-area default. Is that still being planned?

Yes, additional information and greater detail will be provided so that electors are able to assess the two options fully.

There seems to be confusion in the community about the status of referendum. The recent flyer says that the referendum will occur only if the committee recommends to CSRD. Could you clarify?

Only the Minister of Municipal Affairs can order a referendum on the matter of incorporation. The Minister will be looking to the CSRD — which, in turn, will rely on the Committee — to make a recommendation to hold or not hold a referendum. The recommendation will be based on the community's level of interest in incorporation, as judged by the Committee.

A large number of the higher valued and higher taxed properties in Sorrento (waterfront) are owned by seasonal residents. How are you going to ensure they are included in the determination vote?

If the Minister orders a referendum electors will have the option to vote by mail.

According to an email that has circulated in Blind Bay there appears to be a meeting on August 18, 2021 at 6:30 at Dream Cycle. Can you confirm if the Committee has sanctioned this meeting?

The Committee is not associated with and has not sanctioned this event.

Is there anything that the CSRD, members of the advisory committee or the consultants can do to address misinformation or even 'scare tactics' that some may use to encourage the public to vote one way or another?

The Committee discussed the issue of misinformation that may be put forward in different forums (particularly online forums) by persons with strong views on the topic of incorporation.  The Committee decided that it would not engage in debates or efforts aimed at addressing the misinformation, but would instead continue to promote the Study website as the official and sole source of all Committee-sanctioned information on the Study.

How many Administration Support staff would be hired to support the Mayor and Council in a new Sorrento-Blind Bay Municipality?

The Committee's Administration Services sheet identifies all of the administration services that the municipality would be expected to provide.  The same sheet outlines the costs of the services, the taxes required to pay for the services, and the number of staff required to deliver the services.  As noted in the sheet, it is expected that the municipality would require a total of 7.0 full-time Administration staff to provide all of these services. 

Within the contingent of 7.0 full-time Administration staff there would be portions of specific positions dedicated to developing Council meeting agendas, taking minutes of Council meetings, managing the Mayor's schedule of events and duties, undertaking legislative tasks (e.g., development of bylaws), answering Council correspondence, and attending to other tasks required to enable the governing body to function. In a small municipality such as Sorrento-Blind Bay, the total staff time required to support Council would not be expected to exceed 1.0 full-time equivalent.

FAQ Update

September 2021

In the recent virtual presentation the Consultant stated that by year 7 there would be about $14 million in reserves. The various handouts and service sheets do not mention that nor how those reserves will be funded. Clarification is required.

The key document to address this question is the Capital Reserves schedule.  This schedule shows that at the beginning of 2023, a Sorrento-Blind Bay Municipality would receive financial reserve transfers from the CSRD valued at $5,070,928.  $3,994,352 of this amount are funds in place for local Fire, Water and Parks services that are currently under the responsibility of the CSRD, but would become the responsibility of the municipality.  The remaining $1,076,576 would be the Sorrento-Blind Bay portion of the existing Electoral Area C Community Works Fund reserve.

The Capital Reserves schedule also shows that new funds, raised through municipal taxes, would be added to the reserves each year, or used to create new reserves, beginning in 2023.  Specifically:

  • $250,000 would be added each year to the Fire Service reserve fund
  • $200,000 would be set aside each year for a Municipal Hall reserve fund
  • $70,000 would be set aside each year for Park Service capital expenses
  • the amount added to Water Service reserves would be $163,300 in 2023, but would gradually increase to reach $375,000 in 2029
  • $1,226,000 would be added to a Local Roads Service reserve each year beginning 2023 for five years, after which the annual transfer would be reduced to $200,000.

At the beginning of 2029, after all scheduled additions to and withdrawals from the reserves have been made, and a modest amount of investment income has been added (calculated at 1.4% interest), the total reserve fund balance for all of the funds combined would be $14.9 million.

All of the additions to the reserve funds are identified in the individual Service and Issue Sheets for the relevant services.  As well, it is important to note that the annual taxes that would be charged by the new municipality, and that are profiled under Budgets & Property Taxes, all take into account the need to raise sufficient funds to make the annual transfers to reserves.

Would residents in a new Sorrento-Blind Bay Municipality continue to receive the Home Owner Grant that they receive today in Electoral Area C?

Yes.  The provincial government offers Home Owner Grants to qualifying homeowners in electoral areas and municipalities throughout all of British Columbia.  To qualify, a homeowner must:

  • be the registered owner of the residence
  • be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada
  • live in British Columbia
  • occupy the home as his or her principal residence

In Sorrento and Blind Bay, a regular Home Owner Grant of $770 is provided to each homeowner whose residence is assessed at $1,625,000 or less.  Seniors over the age of 65 receive an additional $275 (for a total Home Owner Grant of $1,045) on residences assessed at $1,625,000 or less.  All Home Owner Grants are presented on homeowners' property tax bills and serve to reduce the total property taxes owing. 

It is important to understand that Home Owner Grants paid to homeowners in electoral areas are exactly the same as Grants paid to homeowners in municipalities.  It should also be noted that the sample residential property tax notices available online do not show the Home Owner Grants.  The total taxes owning on the tax notices for both the Incorporation and Area C1 options, therefore, would be reduced by $770 (or $1,045 in the case of seniors 65 years and older) in all cases.

Would local non-profit societies that benefit the community receive the same tax exemptions in a Sorrento-Blind Bay Municipality as they do today in Electoral Area C (and as they would in Area C1)?

Section 15(q) of the Local Government Act states that in electoral areas, properties (lands and improvements) owned and used exclusively by a local non-profit organization for "activities that are of demonstrable benefit to all members of the community" are exempt from taxation.  In municipalities, which are subject to the terms of the Community Charter, these properties are not automatically exempt from taxation.  Under section 224(2)(a) of the Charter, however, Municipal councils may provide permissive tax exemptions each year to non-profit organizations that use their properties for purposes that are directly related to the organizations' purposes.  The same properties would be exempted from taxes levied for regional district services that are provided to the properties.

It is important to note that tax exemptions for non-profit groups, while not automatic in municipalities, are provided each year as permissive exemptions by all municipal councils, including the Councils of Salmon Arm, Sicamous, Revelstoke and Golden.  It is reasonable to assume that local non-profit groups in Blind Bay and Sorrento that are exempted from property taxes today would be provided permissive tax exemptions in a future municipality.

Non-profit organizations benefit in electoral areas and municipalities from local government grants.  In the Sorrento-Blind Bay Incorporation Study, the budget projections for the incorporation option assume that a new municipality would provide the same amount of local government grants-in-aid as are provided now under the Electoral Area C Grants-in-Aid service.

How do the projected taxes for Sorrento and Blind Bay compare to taxes in small municipalities elsewhere?

Caution needs to be exercised when answering this question because each community is different.  Each community has a different assessment base, a different number of road kilometres, a different amount of non-residential assessment, some unique services and ways of delivering services, a different population, and different service needs.  Local taxes in each jurisdiction will vary based on all of these differences.

Local taxes will also vary based on residents' expectations for services, demands for different service levels, ability to pay for services and willingness to pay.  Locally-elected municipal councils make decisions, and are held accountable for those decisions, based on all of these factors.

Local conditions and differences among communities notwithstanding, it can be useful to consider what homeowners in other small municipalities are paying in local property taxes.  The accompanying table presents a range of places in the BC Interior and shows the total local property taxes paid by the owner of a representative home in each.  All figures are from 2020 and include all property taxes paid for municipal services, regional district services, and provincial/other services (including police and school).  The figures do not include the Home Owner Grant (which would reduce the total amount owing in all cases), and do not include parcel taxes or user fees. 

The table shows the total projected property for a representative home ($400,000) in Sorrento-Blind Bay under both the incorporation and the Area C1 option.  These figures are also shown for Blind Bay without the Home Owner Grant, parcel taxes or user fees.  The figures assume a population of 4,550, which is below the 5,000 population level after which a Sorrento-Blind Bay Municipality would become responsible for local policing.

Municipality Assessed Value
(Representative home)
Total Property Taxes
(Actual 2020)
Armstrong $414, 548 $2,302
Barriere $242,693 $1,652
Chase $291,576 $2,315
Clearwater $249,847 $2,185
Enderby $314,039 $2,159
Golden $321,339 $2,677
Merritt $289,346 $2,466
Revelstoke $495,477 $2,979
Salmon Arm $405,543 $2,710
Sicamous $330,132 $2,691

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sorrento-Blind Bay Assessed Value
(Representative home)
Total Property Taxes
(projected on 2020 figures)
Sorrento
Electoral Area C1 $400,000 $1,994
SBB Municipality $400,000 $2,176
 
Blind Bay
Electoral Area C1 $400,000 $1,966
SBB Municipality $400,000 $2,161

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* Note that the Sorrento home is slightly higher in both scenarios than the Blind Bay home because of some small differences in street lighting services.

The Local Roads Service Sheet, in Figure 5, shows two scenarios for road service costs. What additional services would be provided for the higher "Municipal Level Operations" budget?

The Local Roads Service Sheet begins by presenting and explaining the costs incurred by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) to provide maintain the local road network in Sorrento and Blind Bay today.  It was shown in the service sheet that MOTI spends approximately $7,500 per road kilometre to maintain the network. It was explained that this figure, which translates into an annual tax impact on a $400,000 home of $188.00, is considered quite low on account of the significant economies of scale that are available to MOTI, and the considerable purchasing power MOTI has to negotiate competitive maintenance contract rates.

It was noted in the service sheet that the same economies of scale and purchasing power would not be available to a new municipality in Blind Bay and Sorrento.  It was estimated that the cost to a new municipality to achieve the current maintenance standards, provided by MOTI, would also certainly be higher — a range of $8,000 to $10,000 per kilometre of paved road was estimated.  The mid-point of this range — $9,000 per road km — is presented in Figure 5 as one scenario. The rate translates into an annual tax impact of $178.35 for a $400,000 home.

The service sheet went on to explain that, while a per km rate of $9,000 might be possible, experiences of other small municipalities suggest that it would be unlikely.  Figure 4 in the service sheet showed the costs per road kilometre paid by seven small municipalities in the Interior — costs that ranged in 2020 from $11,295 to $23,250 per road km. In recognition of these higher actual costs incurred today in small municipalities, the consultants created a second scenario that envisions a per kilometre road maintenance cost of $13,500, and that adds a further $200,000 per year to assist with road capital works. This second scenario, which would translate into an annual tax of $319.67, was accepted by the Committee.

Would the community receive a higher level or broader range of road maintenance services for the higher amount? The municipality would provide the same range of services (e.g., surface treatments, drainage maintenance, snow removal, roadside maintenance, traffic signage and markings) as MOTI.  Based on the experiences of small municipalities, however, the services would be provided at a higher level than that which the community is receiving today. The change in level would be attributable, in part, to having local staff or locally-accountable contractors involved in delivering the services.  These staff/contractors would, based on experiences elsewhere, be able and expected to respond more quickly than at present.  Maintenance and service standards are also higher in the small municipalities surveyed than those in place today in Sorrento and Blind Bay. 

It may be important to note, as well, that infrastructure and transportation planning would be undertaken by the municipality upon incorporation, rather than centrally by the Ministry. This localization of the road planning function is perceived by many as important, and may result in a higher level of service.

How many admin staff would the municipality require? In one answer you state seven; then in another you state 15. Also, what admin positions are needed and what are the corresponding salaries for each position?

As shown in the Administration Services Sheet, an estimated 7.0 FTE (full-time equivalent) administration positions would be required by the new municipality.  These positions would likely include:

  • a Chief Administrative Officer (CAO)
  • a Deputy Corporate Administrator (i.e., Municipal Clerk)
  • a Municipal Treasurer (CFO)
  • two staff in Finance to handle payroll, accounts receivable, accounts payable, and other Finance functions
  • two staff in Administration to assist with minute taking, human resources, Council agendas, support for the CAO and Council, reception, correspondence, and other Administration functions.

Salaries for these positions would be set to be comparable to other small municipalities and similar positions at the CSRD.  By way of example, the published 2020 salary for the CAO position in Sicamous is $141,000; for the CFO is $119,000; for the Deputy Treasurer is $88,000.  Support staff salaries would be substantially lower.

It is estimated that the municipality would require a total of 15.0 FTE overall, for Administration and all other functions.

Why do all of the studies use a $400,000 average home price? If the average home price were $800,000 instead of $400,000 what would that change do to all of your examples in the documents? Would the impact double?

The $400,000 estimate is a 2020 figure that was chosen to reflect 2020 residential assessment values in the Study Area, as well as the value of "representative home values", as determined by the Province, in a variety of nearby communities, including Salmon Arm. 

To understand the tax impact on a higher home value it is important to understand, first, how taxes paid by the residential properties are determined. To that end, note the following points:

  • Every year, a municipal government estimates up all of the costs it will incur to provide its full range of services. The government then determines how much revenue it will be able to raise from sources other than property taxes to pay the charges (such sources may include provincial grants, sales of services, and others). The difference between the total costs and the total non-tax revenues will equal the amount that the municipality needs to raise from property taxes.
  • Most services provided by local government are paid for using property value taxes — that is, the taxes that are calculated depending on the assessed value of a property. Some services such as water and sewer systems are typically paid using property parcel taxes (or a combination of parcel taxes and user fees). Parcel taxes tend to be charged as one flat rate for every parcel of property, irrespective of assessed value.
  • The municipality must collect enough property value tax revenue to pay all of the service costs that are remaining after non-tax and parcel tax revenues have been taken into account. The municipality takes this amount required and allocates it across different property classes — e.g., residential (Class 1), light industrial (Class 5), business (Class 6), etc.  The total amount to collect from the residential class (Class 1) is applied against the total assessed value of all residential properties in the municipality to determine the residential (Class 1) property tax rate. That rate is then applied to the assessed value of each individual residential property to determine how much the owner of that property must pay in property tax that year.

Because the same Class 1 property tax rate is applied to all residential properties, owners of homes that are assessed at a higher value will pay more tax than owners of homes assessed at a lower value. If one home is assessed at $800,000 and another at $400,000, the owner of the $800,000 home will, at the same tax rate, pay twice the amount of the owner of the $400,000 home for services that are funded using parcel value taxes. The total tax bill for the owner will not be exactly two times the size of the bill for the lower-value place because some services, as noted earlier, are funded using parcel taxes that do not change based on assessed value.  But the total will be close to twice the amount since most services are funded using property value taxes.

The consultants have not created a sample residential tax notice for a home assessed at $800,000; they have, however, created a sample tax notice for a residential property valued at $600,000, which is 50% higher than the typical $400,000 value. The notice shows that the total tax owing (without the Home Owner Grant applied), would be 47% higher than the total tax owing on the same property assessed at $400,000.  The comparison suggests that a residence valued at $800,000 — or, twice the $400,000 value — would pay close to two times the property tax.

On a related point, it is important to note that an increase in the value of all residential properties would not translate into a tax hike for everyone. If all properties increased in value, the property value tax rate would be adjusted downward to enable the municipality to raise the same amount of tax revenue (not more).

If a person has commercial property in the proposed incorporation area from which they run a business, but their personal residential property is outside the proposed incorporation area, does that person have a vote in the referendum if it occurs?

British Columbia does not allow corporate or business votes in local elections.  If the property owned inside the Study Area is owned by and registered to a business, then the answer to the question is no. 

It is important to clarify that the province does allow non-resident property electors to vote.  Specifically, if a person lives in one jurisdiction and owns property, registered in their own name, in another jurisdiction, they may vote once in the other jurisdiction, provided they:

  • are 18 years or age or older
  • are a Canadian citizen
  • have been a resident of BC for at least six months
  • have lived or owned property in the jurisdiction in which they intend to vote for at least 30 days
  • are not disqualified from voting in a local election

This voter eligibility provision for "non-resident property electors" would apply to any Sorrento-Blind Bay Incorporation Referendum.  Therefore, if the property owned within the Study Area is owned by a person and registered in the person's name, the person would be able to vote in a referendum.

With the recent increase in RCMP salaries by an average of 23% across Canada, is the Committee planning to have the consultant revise the policing service sheets and tax notices?

Yes.  The consultants are working with staff from the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General to understand the specific salary increases and their implications for a new municipality.  The consultants are also working with the Ministry to identify changes to the Police Tax that would apply under the Two Electoral Areas option, and to a new municipality with fewer than 5,000 people.

Please stay tuned.

FAQ Update

October 2021

Has the engagement phase of the study been completely shut down?

The Sorrento-Blind Bay Incorporation Study Committee has postponed the previously-scheduled in-person community engagement events.  The Committee's consultants, however, continue to receive and address FAQs, continue to post information to social media and the Study website, and continue to make themselves available to small groups that wish to have online presentations made to group members. 

The Committee is planning to hold the in-person events in January, 2022.  Exact dates will be provided closer to that time.

Could you please clarify the final amount of the provincial offer? I understand it was once $5.35 million but has been updated.

The Provincial Offer of Restructure Assistance was addressed, initially, in a March 25, 2021, letter from The Honourable Josie Osbourne, Minister of Municipal Affairs.   The Minister outlines a total offer of $5,352,030 in both cash and in-kind assistance that would be provided to assist a new Sorrento-Blind Bay Municipality.  Included in this total was $700,000 in road rehabilitation work that would be undertaken by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) during the post-incorporation five-year transition period. 

In a subsequent email from MOTI provided an UPDATE to the road rehabilitation portion of the Provincial Offer.  In this update, MOTI increased the number of kilometres of roads that would be rehabilitated.  The value of the rehabilitation work increased from $700,000 to $1,500,000 — a total increase of $800,000. 

This change to the value of the road rehabilitation work produces a new Provincial Offer total of $6,152,030 in cash and in-kind assistance.

What would a Mayor and six Councillors be paid in a new Sorrento-Blind Bay Municipality?

The Administration Service Sheet presents total costs required to administer a new municipality.  Embedded in those totals are specific assumptions related to Council member remuneration.  Specifically, based on current salaries paid to Council members in other small municipalities in the Interior of British Columbia, the administration cost figures include:

  • $27,000 annual salary for the Mayor
  • $13,000 annual salary for each Councillor.

In addition to these salary figures, the administration cost figures include a total of $20,000 for Council expenses, $35,000 for participation in the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM), and $15,000 for participation in the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM). These figures are for all members of Council (i.e., Mayor and six Councillors) combined.

Based on the approach taken in most British Columbia local governments, it is assumed that a new municipality would not provide benefits on top of these salaries to the Mayor and Councillors. The municipality may choose to make benefit programs available for purchase by Council members; however, the cost of buying into any benefit program would be the responsibility of the individual members of Council, not municipal taxpayers.

It is also assumed that the Mayor and Councillors would not receive municipal pensions. The issue of pensions was addressed in an earlier FAQ as follows:

Local government politicians are not members of the Municipal Pension Plan or any other province-wide plan.  There are ten municipalities in British Columbia that have chosen to establish limited pension-like plans for their own elected officials that meet certain requirements.  All ten of these municipalities are located in Metro Vancouver.  The remaining 152 municipalities do not offer any pension programs for elected officials.

By way of comparison, the additional Electoral Area Director under the default Two Electoral Areas option would be paid $15,000 in salary. Expenses are budged at $9,000, with $5,000 additional for UBCM, $2,500 for FCM.