B. Ziegler, President
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Thank you for your letter dated March 05, 2010, requesting information on Saturna Island’s Parks & Recreation Commission’s recent budget increases as well as our spending.
These questions apparently follow SIPOA’s recent look at our island’s taxes which showed, among other matters, that the 2006-2009 tax increase for Parks & Recreation was 70%. That is without question an eye-catching statistic.
The 70% statistic is indeed correct. However one must be careful with statistics. We thought that a little more information on this issue might be helpful and of interest to all. This percentage number was calculated using the lowest and the highest two budget years in the last decade. A little more information and a broader perspective provides a more balanced, complete and accurate picture of taxes and the SIPRC.
The following is information on our taxation resources over the last ten years. Over this period, the total budget increase works out to 50%, which averages an annual increase of 4.1%. Probably, the most important point is that our budget is small, and at the end of ten years our annual budget has increased only $7,450 which equates to an increase for the average property owner of approximately $12. This is about 3 cents per day. In fact, our 2010 budget, approved last summer, provides for a reduction form the previous year.
You asked about what the island is getting for its Parks & Rec dollars. Here is a brief synopsis. By far the largest Parks budget expenditure of the decade, $105,000, was the purchase of a property that consisted of some land along Lyall Creek and a cottage. This acquisition protects part of Lyall Creek from development and contributes to the salmon enhancement project long underway and the protection of an environment unique on the island. This purchase left our reserves depleted; hence tax increases in 2007 and 2008 to support current goals. These goals include the continuing program of making improvements to our public waterfront accesses for all islanders to enjoy, and a plan for new improvements at Thomson Park, including a picnic shelter. Other recent Parks projects have included managing (and paying fees for) the License of Occupation for the Ball Field, funds for new picnic tables for the Saturna Island Lamb BBQ, financial assistance to the Fog Alarm Building project, and maintenance and improvements at Thomson Park and the CRD Regional Park at East Point. An earlier Parks & Recreation project created the Lyall Creek Waterfall Trail (now part of the GINPR).
In order to accomplish these projects, over the years we have built up a capital reserve which currently stands at about 80,000$
SIPRC spending on recreation projects is typified by many small activities, such as various workshops and educational walks including such topics as gardening, mushrooms and history. Funds have been provided to support, or assist, a variety of community recreational activities, examples of which include: island choirs, karate instruction, annual sailing regatta, SEEC, local ecological learning summer programs, Saturnita long boat project and the Athletic Association. The island’s Recreation Center has been the largest recipient of recreation funds, totaling over 9,200$, for recreation and exercise equipment. We also fund annual community activities such as the Thomson Park Clean-Up, Taylor Point Hike, Paddle & Row, and the Lyall Creek BBQ.
We have no reserve or accumulated funds for recreation.
In your letter you state that our budget information is neither available to the public nor online. In fact, it is. Our budget information is available on the CRD web site but accessing this information is not as user-friendly as one might like since it is included in the complete CRD budget data base. The attached sheet provides the links and directions on how to find the pertinent information. While reviewing this information SIPOA may want to study how Saturna Parks & Recreation Commission compares with our counterparts on our neighbouring islands. It is apparent that our taxation and spending is very modest in comparison. For example we are at 49% of our authorized tax levy; all other island Parks and Recreation Commissions are at or near 100%.Notable as well is the fact that our percentage use of the available tax levy has decreased over the last 10 years from 95% to the current 49%.
We have already recognized that web access to information is clumsy, hence, this year the Commission is considering lobbying the CRD for an Saturna Island specific page on its web site to make access to all information more readily available.
It must be kept in mind that the SIPRC is an agency of the CRD and not a native or Island-grown organization. There are limits to our independence. We are answerable to the CRD and must follow its regulations policies and directions in many spheres, especially accounting. We are all volunteers. There are no forensic auditors, bookkeepers or chartered accountants on the Commission. We are directed by the CRD to release financial matters to them and they post them in accordance with their policies. We will do our best to be as informative as possible consistent with open and transparent government and CRD policies.
Saturna Parks & Recreation Commission