Tentative city tax hike: $83.70 on average

The owner of an average-assessed Kamloops home is looking at an $83.70 increase in property taxes and associated fees in 2013 as city council gears up for budget talks in the new year.

Council has passed a preliminary budget for the coming year that includes a tax increase of 3.91 per cent.

That works out to $65.40 extra in property taxes for homeowners with a property with an assessed value of $340,000, along with an extra $18 in fee increases for sewer service and garbage collection.

The tentative tax hike is down some from what city staff originally expected to bring forward in 2013.

Director of finance Sally Edwards said last year's financial plan had originally projected a five per cent hike — $83.67 before water and sewer rates were factored in — and still needed a $2.6-million draw from the city's reserves.

Edwards said staff were able to get the numbers down by going back through the city's capital budget with an eye to prioritizing projects that could actually be completed.

"We realized, listen, we're not spending the money that's in this capital budget," she said.

"It had a very major impact on the water side and in the general fund as well."

Water rates were originally expected to rise by $27 per average household this year, but staff were able to find an extra $750,000 in the budget by pushing off some projects, cancelling some that were no longer necessary and streamlining operations.

Garbage and sewer rates will, however, rise in the new year.

Council has agreed to bump sewer rates up by five per cent, about $12 per household. The city is slowly stepping up its rate hike to offset the cost of a new wastewater-treatment plant, which comes online in 2014.

Garbage-collection fees will go up as well, but only for those homeowners using the largest bin sizes.

For those with 245-litre bins, rates will rise by $6. Those with 360-litre bins will see costs go up $22.

Edwards said the city should also bring in an extra $1.3 million in new taxes from city growth.

But, that leaves the city short $3.3 million if it wants to deliver the same service levels it did in 2012. Supplemental budget items — such as last year's transit expansion — won't come to council until Jan. 15, 2013.

Among the higher ticket items on the budget are the almost $1.2-million RCMP contract costs, $1.1 in wages and benefits and just under $1.1 million in capital projects to be funded through taxes.

"Last year, we funded local roads with gaming money," Edwards said. "That is not really what we want to be doing."

With the preliminary budget in place, council will begin public consultation on the numbers in the new year.

Coun. Ken Christian urged residents not to bring wish lists with them to the budget meetings. Instead, he said, it's time to take a hard look at city-service levels.

"If they have ideas where we could cut back on those, that would be most helpful," he said.



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