The latest budget for the region’s hospital district, with plans for a $4.4 million drop in tax requisition, moved closed to adoption at the Feb. 25 meeting.
Staff for the Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital District presented the latest draft following a provisional version for the board in the fall. The board is made up of elected municipal and regional representatives from the Comox and Strathcona regional districts to oversee raising the local capital portion for new health care infrastructure, such as the two North Island Hospital campuses.
As manager of financial planning Kevin Douville told the board at the Feb. 25 meeting, the budget of roughly $12.6 million represents a decrease of $4.4 million this year. Of this, about $10.7 million will go to service the debt for the two hospitals. As well, there is $1.88 million for health care grants and $276,000 in operational costs.
As to what what this will mean for property owners, for a home assessed at $500,000 will pay $191, compared with $270 in 2020.
The budget includes surplus funds of $1,022,694 to be transferred to reserves, some of which resulted from leftover grants and other money unspent due to COVID-19 restrictions and reduced activities.
“We are still putting some dollars into reserves, largely the surplus,” Douville said.
CSRHD has about $23 million in reserves for future priorities.
As well, the hospital district has allocated $1,850,000 for minor equipment and projects, funded entirely through the current year’s tax requisition. Also funded will be $5,000 each in unconditional grants to the six health facilities in smaller communities within the hospital district region.
Board members raised questions about flexibility over how to spend grants for smaller rural areas, whether the amounts could be increased and whether there was any ability to roll over unspent amounts instead of transferring these to reserves.
“We’re sort of in a use-it-or-lose-it situation, where it gets taken back if it’s not spent,” said Martin Davis, the representative for Tahsis. “They would certainly like some flexibility in carrying monies forward from one year to the other.”
Board members approved motions to pass the first three readings of the budget and capital expenditure bylaws. The budget is to be adopted before the end of March.