Letter: Taking back my signature

Tuesday, August 15 2017

Yesterday I signed the community hall petition requesting support for ongoing property tax funding for maintenance and improvements of the hall, and today I went back to remove my signature. This does not mean I don’t support my community hall - I do, I have for 35 years, and I will always support it, but not willingly with tax funding. In fact, I hereby offer the going mill rate for my dwelling, every year, as a donation to the community hall, without the expense of holding a referendum. 

If the current community hall board cannot obtain enough funds to keep the hall going with fundraising events, granting agency money, available government funds, and rental fees, then perhaps we can find a way to operate the hall as a co-operative, or by subscription fees from residents like me who would willingly pay a small fee every year to maintain and improve the hall.

There are essential services in a community, a province, and a country that must be supported by tax dollars if we are to live in a civil society and operate more or less as a social democracy. These are services and infrastructure that ensure a modicum of peace, environmental sensibility, and social equality: public health, public education (including libraries), public transportation, natural resource protection (including marine resources), legislation and law enforcement. In most Canadian communities fire protection, waste management, and provision of clean water is also funded by tax dollars.

I know all of the reasons why community halls and arts councils are an important part of our cultural and social well-being; if I didn’t, I would not still be living on Gabriola, where the social and cultural fabric of this island has held me together more than once. That is also a reason to volunteer and invest oneself in the community with time and energy. Volunteering for community events and agencies does not require “relief” in the form of tax dollars; it is a reward in itself. 

I realize that there is some funding available specifically to municipalities that is not available to unincorporated areas like Gabriola, but there are other funds available for places that do not get the investment from developers that municipalities do. And in places like Gabriola, there are businesses, developers and residents who will give a lot of money for specific projects if they are asked.

Requesting tax funding “to accumulate seed financing for future expansion for activities, arts or other needs’” is not specific enough for me to want to say “yes” to putting our community hall on the property tax assessment roll. Regarding more specific needs, such as an emergency generator: this is an obvious request for direct provincial or RDN funding (right now!) if the community hall is the designated south end (technically the west end) emergency depot.

I looked forward to the salmon barbecue; I took three visitors from England, and did my best to support this wonderful annual fundraising event. How about a mid-winter fundraising event for the hall? I’ll be there to help in any way possible – buying a ticket, washing dishes, cleaning up afterwards, you name it – I’ll happily contribute my money, time and energy to an event that supports our community hall.

~ Susan Yates