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Powell River Regional Hospital District reviews health care taxes

Directors hear presentation on second draft of the five-year financial plan
REQUISITIONS OUTLINED: Powell River Regional Hospital Board directors were presented the second draft of the five-year financial plan, which contains a small increase in the tax requisition, and a larger proposed contribution to reserves to help fund annual requests from Vancouver Coastal Health for capital upgrades.

Draft two of Powell River Regional Hospital District’s five-year financial plan has been presented to the hospital board, containing a small increase to its tax requisition, but a larger recommendation for reserve contributions.

At the January 24 hospital district board meeting, qathet Regional District manager of financial services Linda Greenan outlined the 2024 to 2028 financial plan draft two.

Greenan reviewed Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) cost share requests and the debenture debts that the board has taken on to pay for them. She said the board had made a motion that it not continue with borrowing for those requests.

Greenan said the cost share per $100,000 of assessed value for residential tax rates for the draft two budget had decreased from draft one because the hospital district is not going to borrow for the VCH cost share requests, but instead, would pay from reserve. She said the tax rate for 2024 would be $15.16 per $100,000, which is a change from $14.34 in 2023.

Cost per average home, which is $576,258.50 in 2024, down from the 2023 figure of $607,465.81, would be $87.36, or a change of 26 cents from the previous year.

Comparing hospital district tax rates to neighbouring jurisdictions, the Powell River figures are on the low side, said Greenan. She said the provincial average was $44.39 per $100,000 of assessed value, so Powell River is near the bottom at $15.16.

In terms of reserve fund contributions, Greenan said she wanted the hospital board to consider allocating $20 per $100,000 of assessed value to reserves on top of the annual tax rate.

“The reason for that is it would accumulate funds for capital renewals because we know VCH has told us there are some renewals coming up that the board has to consider,” said Greenan, “The rate would mean about $1.76 million to reserves annually. That would allow us to stabilize the requisition, so if VCH came with a $1 million requisition each year, we could use the reserves for that and not have to increase the tax requisition to fund that, and we wouldn’t have to go to borrowing.”

Greenan said the final budget will come on March 28.

Electoral Area D director Sandy McCormick asked if the $20 per $100,000 was calculated in the tax rates that had been quoted, or whether the money would be in addition to the tax rate.

Greenan said the reserve fund contribution would be in addition to the tax rate.

“This would be another $20 per $100,000 on top of that rate,” said Greenan. “What I was basing that on was that VCH has been asking for approximately $1 million on average per year to fund the cost share requests. I thought $20 would give us the $1 million per year to potentially fund those requests and then an extra $760,000 that could be used towards future, larger capital replacements or renewals.”

The additional assessment on an average single-family dwelling would be $115.20.

Electoral Area A director Jason Lennox said these are big increases that the hospital district is considering in case VCH asks for more money.

“We’ve already made it clear to them that we want this information up front so we can properly budget,” said Lennox. “I’m really concerned with the amount of dollars we are talking about here.”

Electoral Area B director Mark Gisborne said he gets the idea of combining the two requisitions. He said they amount to a 145 per cent increase, so that in the future there can be a more stable tax requisition.

“To add a big increase to the regional hospital district – we need to be able to justify these increases to our taxpayers,” said Gisborne. “It’s becoming a bigger and tougher pill for me to swallow.”

City of Powell River director and hospital board chair George Doubt suggested setting the matter over to a regional hospital board committee of the whole meeting in February, where there could be a more fulsome report on the reserve contribution changes, then the board could make a decision on the amount.

The board gave unanimous approval that regional hospital district 2024 budget draft two be referred to the February 2024 regional hospital district committee of the whole meeting.

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