The Cariboo Regional District (CRD) is planning a referendum for Electoral Areas A, B, C and I to begin contributions towards the operating costs of the Quesnel Regional Airport.
The referendum is planned for October 20, to coincide with local government elections.
The proposed annual contribution, called the North Cariboo Airport Service, would be based on property values and would amount to about $3.65 per $100,000 of the assessed value of land and improvements.
The agreement would last three years, with a total of $66,000 a year contributed to the airport by CRD residents.
Currently, City of Quesnel residents and businesses support the airport within their taxes, but not CRD residents.
The estimated subsidy required by the airport is $180,000 per year. Under the agreement rural residents would pay the same tax rate as City residents, with the City of Quesnel contributing $114,000 a year (including industrial and business taxes) and the CRD $66,000.
The CRD areas affected are Area A – Red Bluff/South Quesnel; Area B – Quesnel West/Bouchie Lake; – Area C, Bowron Lake/Barlow Creek/Barkerville; and Area I – Narcosli/Nazko/West Fraser.
If the referendum goes through, an airport advisory committee will be created, with members of the public and elected CRD and City representatives invited to provide input into airport operations.
Currently, Quesnel’s airport offers flight services seven days a week from Central Mountain Air. Around 18,000 passengers travel through the airport every year. Medevac flights for medical emergencies also operate from the airport, amounting to approximately 180 flights per year.
The airport also served as an air base for the B.C. Wildfire Service during last summer’s wildfires, and SkyFest is hosted at the site.
CRD vice-chair John Massier says the motion to hold an airport referendum and to begin public engagement was passed at a March 2018 North Cariboo Joint Planning Committee meeting. He says information sessions will be held near the fall elections, and a frequently-asked-questions document has been developed for circulation.
“Whether we are rural or city based taxpayers, we rely heavily on that airport, and our businesses depend on it. If we didn’t have it we might struggle to retain some of the businesses that we have in the community and it wouldn’t be as vibrant a place to live,” says Massier.
“[The proposed agreement] is an acknowledgement that there are widespread benefits to having an airport in the community, and the cost for running it haven’t been shared equally in the past.”