Water board tax hike supported

The hike in taxes for the Okanagan Basin Water Board came under fire, then received support from the regional district recently.

The Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen decided against sending a letter to the Okanagan Basin Water Board, after directors expressed concerns about the nine per cent increase in the tax requisition for 2008.

The change in direction came after a presentation from OBWB executive director Anna Warwick Sears, who explained to directors that the increase was part of a three-year agreement between the parties.

The agreement, now in its last year, allows the OBWB to requisition two cents per $1,000 of the assessed value of homes in the RDOS. This year that equates to more than $760,000, up $63,000 over last year.

But the increase in funds this year was due to an increase in the housing assessments, not due a larger budget for the water board, explained Warwick Sears.

But director Rory McIvor said the agreement is backwards. Rather than the funds being based on the housing assessment, he said, the budget should be determined and then the tax requisition set.

“Does the OBWB really need all that money?” he asked, adding that three years ago, when they set the two cent tax rate, the OBWB may not have predicted they would generate so much revenue.

But Osoyoos Mayor John Slater, who also chairs the OBWB, pointed out the RDOS gets back all of the funds it gives to the OBWB through the grant process.

Warwick Sears said over the last five years grants to the RDOS have actually exceeded the amount requisitioned. The OBWB is dipping into its reserve funds to provide grants for the region, she said.

Rural Oliver director Allan Patton said he “didn’t think” the RDOS should break the three-year agreement now, as this is the last year.

Instead, the board agreed to revisit the issue during budget discussions for next year, when the OBWB will be considering a new agreement.