Over the course of the community engagement phase, the Committee will be producing two mailouts and various presentations to help residents get informed. Copies of all materials will be made available here as they are created.
Recordings of both Open Houses and the Discussion Panel events are available for viewing.
The Open Houses were based on content also discussed in the Understanding the Options mailout. The Discussion Panel had mayors from five small and mid-sized B.C. communities speaking about their experience with incorporation.
Online Discussion Panel
Saturday, January 29, 2022
1 PM to 3:30 PM
Click for Zoom recording
|Time Stamps for Discussion panel video|
|Panelists’ opening comments||00:21:07|
|Questions from the public||00:42:02|
|Question on accountability||00:42:37|
|Question on taxes||00:47:36|
|Question on roads||01:01:30|
|Question on industrial taxes||01:21:28|
|Question on policing||01:31:16|
|Question on sense of community||01:42:40|
|Question on ward system||01:51:50|
|Question on municipal hall and works yard||01:58:36|
|Question on service delivery||02:04:48|
|Question on permissive tax exemptions||02:14:32|
|Question on Indigenous relations||02:15:14|
|Final question to each Panelist||02:23:04|
|Chair’s closing remarks||02:33:52|
|Consultant’s final remarks||02:35:10|
Online Open House
Monday, January 17, 2022
6 PM to 8:30 PM
Click for Zoom Recording
Online Open House
Thursday, January 20, 2022
6 PM to 8:30 PM
Click for Zoom recording
For ease of reading electronically, we have broken the Understanding the Options mailout into its separate sections. The content of the document is identical to the printed PDF version, which can be accessed by the link above.
The Sorrento-Blind Bay Incorporation Study kicked-off in the fall of 2019 to examine the potential creation of a new municipality for Blind Bay and Sorrento. Over twenty months — a period during which the study was paused because of COVID-19 — the Incorporation Study Advisory Committee oversaw a detailed technical analysis aimed at outlining how a decision to create a new municipality would impact:
- responsibility for the provision of local services to the community
- how decisions on services are made, and by whom
- the cost of providing services, and the revenues available to fund the costs
- property taxes paid by residents
The Committee completed its analysis in June, 2021, and set out to share its findings with residents. Community engagement on the findings is a critical piece of the Incorporation Study, designed to ensure that all residents of Blind Bay and Sorrento have the information they need to fully understand the Incorporation Option, as well as the Two Electoral Areas alternative that will result in the event that incorporation does not proceed.
Public health orders issued in September, 2021, prompted a second pause in the Committee's work. Limited online community engagement activities continued throughout the fall; however, in-person Open Houses and a Discussion Panel that were planned for September had to be postponed.
The Committee is now moving to complete its engagement efforts. This month (January, 2022), the Committee will be hosting the Open Houses and Discussion Panel that were previously postponed. It was hoped that these events could feature an in-person component. The worsening situation with the Omicron variant, however, has forced the Committee to resort to an all-online format. To complement the events, and to ensure that residents receive all of the information they need to understand what incorporation would mean to them, the Committee has developed this overview, titled Understanding the Options.
Understanding the Options is a comprehensive overview of the Incorporation Study findings. The publication begins by reviewing the current local government structure in place for Sorrento and Blind Bay. The Incorporation Option is then explained to help residents understand how service provision, governance and property taxes would change as a result of a decision to incorporate.
The default, Two Electoral Areas Option is also outlined.
The projected property tax impacts that would result from incorporation are presented in a separate section of the text. Immediate tax changes are explained first, followed by longer-term changes that would occur once Sorrento and Blind Bay reached 5,000 population. The tax phase-in provision designed to soften anticipated tax increases is also explained. An additional section is included on property assessments to help readers understand the link between assessed values and property taxes.
The process going forward is outlined next, including key steps leading up to a possible April 30, 2022 referendum. The question "which option is best" is explored to end the overview. Reasons in support of the different options are put forward to help residents determine which individual option best represents their preferred future for the community.
Sorrento and Blind Bay exist today as unincorporated communities in Electoral Area C (South Shuswap) of the Columbia Shuswap Regional District. The CSRD is the local government for the communities, responsible for providing most of the local services on which residents depend, including water, fire response, planning and building inspection, parks and recreation, bylaw enforcement and others. Decisions related to these services are made by the CSRD Board of Directors. Blind Bay and Sorrento are represented on the Board by one director — the Electoral Area C Director — who is elected by and accountable to voters throughout Area C. In total, the Board has 11 Directors, ten of whom are in place to represent other parts of the Regional District.
Property taxes are requisitioned by the Regional District to pay the cost of providing services to Blind Bay and Sorrento. Taxes are collected from residents by the provincial government on behalf of the region.
The Province is responsible for certain services in Blind Bay and Sorrento, including local roads and police. Decisions on these services are made by provincial ministries in Victoria. Property taxes are charged by the Province to help fund service costs.
A choice in favour of incorporation would result in the creation of a new Sorrento-Blind Bay Municipality, with an estimated population of 4,550 (see Figure 1). The Municipality's boundary — also referred to as the Incorporation Study Area — was selected by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs prior to the beginning of the Incorporation Study, based on the results of a Boundary Analysis. The boundary was designed to:
- create a compact municipality, while also providing sufficient area for future growth
- capture the existing Sorrento Village Centre and Blind Bay Centre
- minimize the amount of ALR land in the municipality, and exclude as much Class 9 farm land as possible
- contain all local water service areas, the entire Shuswap Lake Liquid Waste Management Plan area, and the bulk of the existing Shuswap Volunteer Fire Department service area
- include only the roads necessary to create a strong local road network
- include lands in a variety of property assessment classes
- capture an assessment base that is as sizable and diverse as possible.
The Sorrento-Blind Bay Municipality would become the local government for the community. The Municipality would be the primary local service provider, responsible for providing most local services to residents, including all utilities, parks and recreation, land use planning and building inspection, bylaw enforcement, fire response, local roads, subdivision approval and others.
The Municipality would automatically be a member municipality of the CSRD, along with Salmon Arm, Sicamous, Revelstoke and Golden. Post-incorporation, some of the regional district services currently provided to Sorrento-Blind Bay would continue to be provided by the CSRD. In certain cases — Solid Waste Management Planning and CSRD General Government are examples — continued provision by the regional district would be required by law. In other cases — E911 Call Response, Emergency Preparation and GIS stand out — continued reliance on the CSRD would make financial sense.
The provincial government would no longer be responsible for providing local road services after incorporation. Responsibility for the planning, maintenance (including snow removal) and upgrading of local roads would shift to the Municipality. The Province would retain responsibility, however, for providing local police service until the Municipality's population, as recorded by the Census, exceeded 5,000. At that time, responsibility for the police service would shift to the Municipality.
The governing body for the Sorrento-Blind Bay Municipality would be the Municipal Council, comprised of one Mayor and six Councillors. Each of the seven members would be elected at-large by voters to represent the community as a whole. Council would be responsible for making all major decisions, including those related to:
- existing services for which the Municipality would be responsible (including local roads and road maintenance standards)
- the establishment of new services
- the review and approval of major development applications and the development of land use planning policies
- the passing of the Municipality's annual operating and capital budgets
- the setting of tax rates for all classes of property
The CSRD Board of Directors would make decisions on regional district services provided to the Municipality. The Municipality would be represented on the Board by one Municipal Director who would be appointed to the position by Council. The Director would vote along with Directors from other CSRD local jurisdictions on services received by the Municipality, as well as on Regional District corporate and financial matters (e.g., establishment of a new service, adoption of the annual budgets).
The provincial government would not make any decisions related to local roads in the Municipality, since responsibility for the local road system would be transferred to Council. The Province would, however, continue to be responsible for and make decisions related to provincial highways, including the Trans-Canada.
Policing decisions would rest largely with the Province and RCMP until the Municipality reached 5,000 population and assumed responsibility for the service. At that point, the Municipal Council would be able to make some decisions and influence others. The decision to contract with the RCMP, for example, would fall to Council, as would the decision to build (or not build) a local detachment. Decisions related to policing priorities and authorized strength, by contrast, would be made by the Province and RCMP with some input from Council.
A decision to incorporate would give the Sorrento-Blind Bay community, through its locally-elected Municipal Council, greater control over local services, including roads and road maintenance standards, planning policies, development approvals, parks and recreation services, and others. Along with greater control, however, would come higher property taxes.
The Committee has developed a number of sample property tax notices to show the estimated tax impact of incorporation for residents and businesses (posted at csrd.bc.ca). Three notices show the tax impact for residences assessed at $400,000 in the different neighbourhoods; a fourth provides the impact for a home assessed at $600,000 in Blind Bay. A summary of the information from the $600,000 residence is provided in the Property Tax Impacts tab ;listed after the Two Electoral Areas option.
If voters in Blind Bay and Sorrento rejected incorporation, or if the Committee determined that there were insufficient interest to recommend a referendum, Electoral Area C would be split into two separate electoral areas — Areas C1 and C2. Sorrento and Blind Bay, along with Notch Hill, Balmoral and Carlin, would become part of Electoral Area C1, and would be represented on the CSRD Board by its own Area C1 Director. This option, to be clear, is the default option that would result in the event that incorporation did not proceed.
The provision of local services would be very similar to the situation in Sorrento and Blind Bay today. The CSRD, as the community's local government, would be the primary local service provider, responsible for providing most local government services, including planning and building inspection, utilities, fire response, bylaw enforcement, parks and recreation, and others. The provincial government would also play a significant role in local services. Through the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, the Province would continue to manage the local road network and set road maintenance standards. Local policing would also fall to the Province.
The CSRD Board of Directors would be the governing body for the community. The Board would make all decisions for CSRD services in which Area C1 participated, including decisions on planning policies and approvals, parks and recreation priorities, and other matters. Area C1 would be represented on the Board by its own Electoral Area Director, who would participate in all votes related to Area C1 services. Directors from other jurisdictions would also participate in these votes, as they do today for decisions that affect Electoral Area C. Decisions on roads, road priorities and standards would be made by the provincial government, as would decisions on local policing.
Property taxes charged in Area C1 would be essentially the same as those charged today in Electoral Area C. The Area C1 taxes are outlined in the following tab along with those for the Incorporation Option.
 The total number of other Directors involved would depend on the service in question and the type of decision. In some instances, the entire Board would vote. In all instances, at least one other Director from a different jurisdiction would vote.
Property Tax Impacts
In considering the option to incorporate, it will be important for residents of Blind Bay and Sorrento to understand how responsibility for local services would shift from the CSRD and Province to the new Municipality. It will also be important to understand the implications for governance — more specifically, the transfer of a considerable amount of decision-making control to the Municipal Council. Residents will need, then, to consider the changes to service provision and decision-making against the estimated changes to property taxes.
As noted, the Committee has developed property tax notices for a range of property types at different assessed values. One notice has been created for a residential property assessed at $600,000 (2020 assessment), and serviced by the Cedar Heights water system in Blind Bay. A simplified version of the tax notice is presented in Figure 3.
The tax amounts identified in the Area C1 column reflect the costs incurred by the CSRD and Province today to provide local services to Sorrento and Blind Bay. The costs listed in the Municipality column take into account:
- all costs that the Municipality would incur to provide the services for which it would be responsible
- the cost of all municipal staff and equipment
- the cost of the Municipal Hall
- the provincial Police Tax that would be charged at a higher rate than at present, for as long as the community remained below 5,000 people
- the payments that the Municipality would make to the CSRD for regional services.
The costs also take into account the Provincial Offer of Assistance, which would be used by the Municipality to build close to $15 million in reserves and to phase-in the projected tax increase. Finally, it is important to note that all of the figures, for both options, are in almost all cases based on the existing level of service provided to the community. The local roads service stands out as an exception to this general rule. The Committee has assumed that the basic level of rural road maintenance in place today in Blind Bay and Sorrento would increase as a result of incorporation. This assumption is based on a review of other small municipalities, including some recently-incorporated ones.
The new Sorrento-Blind Bay Municipality would have a starting population of about 4,550. Local policing in the Municipality would remain the responsibility of the Province for as long as the municipal population remained below 5,000. At the 5,000 mark, however, responsibility for the service would shift to the Municipality, as would a greater share of policing costs.
Figure 3 shows the expected tax impact at the current estimated population of 4,550. Figure 4 adjusts the tax notice to show the impact of policing costs at a population of over 5,000 — a number that could be recorded in the 2026 Census. The figure shows local policing as a municipal service at a higher cost.
Tax Increase Phase-in
Figures 3 and 4 show that property taxes would increase as a result of incorporation. Higher property taxes are the trade-off that the community would need to accept in exchange for control over key services and decisions.
To soften the impact on taxpayers, transition funds provided by the Province would be applied to phase-in the projected tax increase. Figure 5 shows how the phase-in would change annual tax payments for the sample Blind Bay residence ($600,000 assessment) over seven years, beginning 2023. For each year in the figure, the amount of increase over the previous year's tax payment is also shown.
 All costs in Figure 4 reflect existing service levels and use constant, 2020 dollars.
When reviewing tax notices, it is important to understand the link between property assessments and taxes owing.
Every year BC Assessment assesses and assigns a value to each parcel of property in British Columbia. In each municipality and electoral area, the Assessment Authority then adds together the values of individual properties to determine the jurisdiction's total assessment base, as well as the total base for each of the nine classes of property (the largest of which are Class 1 Residential, and Class 6 Business). Local governments determine through their budget processes how much tax revenue is required to be raised from the different classes of property to cover the cost of services provided. For each class, the total amount — referred to as the tax burden — is divided by the class' assessment base to calculate the property tax rate to charge.
All property owners in a given property class pay the same tax rate. The actual dollar amount of tax paid by an individual owner, however, will depend on the assessed value of the owner's property. A property with a high assessed value, relative to that of others, will pay more tax than a property in the same class with a lower value.
In Sorrento and Blind Bay, as in most British Columbia municipalities, the assessed value of most properties increase each year, as does the size of the total assessment base. Increases in property assessments, however, do not necessarily result in any change to the amount of tax owing.
Every year, local governments requisition only what is required in property tax revenue to fund the costs incurred by the local government to function and provide services. To ensure that revenues do not exceed budgeted needs, local governments automatically adjust tax rates downward to offset increases in assessed values.
The dollar amount of taxes charged to property owners each year will go up in most communities to cover cost-of-living and other possible increases to the cost of providing local services. In high-growth areas such as the South Shuswap, however, the annual percentage increase in tax payments will be much smaller than the percentage increase in property assessments.
Sorrento and Blind Bay Properties
Figures 3 and 4, shown earlier in the property Impacts tab, feature a residential property with an assessed value of $600,000. This value, it should be emphasized, represents the 2020 property assessment. In that year, the average residential assessment was lower than $600,000.
It is also important to emphasize that the 2020 taxes paid by the sample property, along with those paid by all other properties, were calculated to collect sufficient funds to pay the local government budgeted costs identified for 2020.
Finally, it is important to note that the amounts paid under the options in Figures 3 and 4 reflect property tax rates that have been calculated based on the size of the 2020 Sorrento-Blind Bay assessment base, and the amount of tax revenue required to cover 2020 costs. Changes to the property assessments in 2021 and 2022, coupled with changes to the budgeted costs in those years, would result in different rates.
Figure 6 outlines the process going forward. During the month of January, 2022, the Committee will host three community engagement events:
Online Open House
Monday, January 17, 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm
Zoom Link at csrd.bc.ca
Online Open House
Thursday, January 20, 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm
Zoom Link at csrd.bc.ca
Online Discussion Panel
Saturday, January 29, 1:00 pm to 3:30 pm
Zoom Link at csrd.bc.ca
Each event will be recorded for review by residents who are unable to participate at the specified times. All recordings will be posted in the days following the events at this page.
During the month of February, the Committee's consultants will compile all Service Sheets, budget materials, property tax projections and other information to produce the Sorrento-Blind Bay Incorporation Study Report. The Committee will receive the Report at the end of February, then meet in early March to determine its recommendation to the CSRD Board on an incorporation referendum.
The CSRD Board will receive the recommendation on March 17, 2022. Based on the Committee's advice, the Board will make its own recommendation to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. If, based on the input from the Committee and Board, the Minister orders a referendum, local electors in Sorrento and Blind Bay will vote on incorporation on April 30, 2022.
Complete information on the referendum, including the ballot question to expect, location of voting places, times of voting, voter eligibility and other factors, will be made available by the Ministry and CSRD, as necessary, throughout the month of April.
If, based on a recommendation from the Committee, the Minister of Municipal Affairs orders a referendum on incorporation, local voters in Blind Bay and Sorrento will be asked to choose between creating a new municipality, and remaining unincorporated in Electoral Area C1. Both options, it should be emphasized, are entirely feasible in terms of service provision, decision-making, tax base and finances. The options, however, are distinct from one another — each will appeal to different voters for different reasons.
It is not the role of the Committee to recommend one option over the other, or to move voters in a particular direction. It may be helpful for the Committee, however, to highlight some of the characteristics of each of the options that may resonate with voters, and that may help voters make informed decisions. Figure 7 presents some points to consider.