Homeowners in Ashcroft will face a 2.5 per cent increase in taxes this year, as the village continues with $3.5-million worth of improvements to sewer, water, and garbage collection as well as parks and cultural services.
Chief financial officer Yogi Bhalla told council the increase is related to rising home assessments across the village last year. The average home assessment rose by $10,474 last year, to $254,583. This means on average, homeowners will pay an additional $14 on their taxes, while the average cost to residential, strata, or farm owners is likely to rise by $23.
The Village of Ashcroft typically increases taxes by 2.5 per cent annually, but held the line last year. The village only keeps about 50 per cent of all the taxes it collects, as it must pay out costs to the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, School District No. 74, BC Assessment Authority, the RCMP, and the Municipal Finance Authority.
The village is also continuing with work on its projects list, which includes the water treatment plant sand separator, the North Ashcroft reservoir, the Legacy Park campground, and one of the sewage lift stations.
Bhalla noted that the village is debt-free, with about $4 million in reserves, but is seeing rising cost pressures. This includes everything from higher costs for natural gas to higher tipping fees and a potential $14,000 hit for streetlights. He said that one of the biggest factors is related to increasing water consumption, which went up 15 per cent last year, resulting in an additional $120,000 in costs for hydro.
“A one per cent increase in taxes is $10,000 for us in revenue,” Bhalla said. “We need to look at perhaps implementing conservation measures and keeping on track to be conscious of our consumption.”
Gloria Mertens questioned if the village would be bringing in water meters, but Mayor Barbara Roden noted meters are costly and the village is focused more on educating residents to reduce their water use.
“Water metering is simply something we cannot do at this time. Education is by far the most powerful tool we have to ensure compliance,” Roden said.
The village is hiring a summer student, and one of the priorities is to have them advocate for water compliance and education.
“If we can get any savings through voluntary compliance and awareness it is the best avenue, in our opinion, to move forward,” Bhalla said.
Council was scheduled to discuss the budget again on May 10.