Residential and business taxes will be going up this year to not only balance this year’s budget but to improve a bleak looking financial situation in 2012.
Residential taxpayers will see their tax bill increase by four per cent while business taxes will rise by half a per cent, council decided Friday during its final day of budget discussions.
On an average home, assessed at $268,000, that means an extra $39 per year. An average business, valued at $147,000, will see an increase of roughly $25 per year.
All other tax sectors, including utilities, will not see any increase.
Council had toyed with the possibility of raising residential taxes by as much as 13 per cent to help balance the budget but a number of cuts and draws from reserves allowed council to work with a smaller figure.
“I think people will be very relieved at the small increase,” said Coun. Mary Storry.
The first one per cent increase in residential taxes, which generates $147,000 for the city, will be used against the deficit for 2011.
Dollars coming from the business tax increase, which generates $25,000 for the city, and the additional three per cent residential tax increase (441,639), will be put towards the deficit for 2012, which is expected to be worse than this year at $2.71 million.
That was just a small part of a budget that not all councillors agreed on.
Coun. Ziggy Stewart did not support the budget as he felt more could have been done to address the city’s tough financial position.
“There’s a lot of things going on and no one wants to address it. We’re just going in the wrong way and there’s something fundamentally wrong with what council’s doing right now,” said Stewart who wanted even more cuts to services.
After increasing tax rates, council went to work chopping budgets in order to erase a $1.59 million deficit.
Rivercorp’s budget was the first to be slashed.
InFilm ($50,000) and the Forestry Task Force ($40,500), which were previously funded through Rivercorp, will receive funds from council’s contingency fund this year, which allowed council to cut Rivercorp’s budget down to $470,180.
A further $26,000 for the city’s portion of the cruise ship dock lease was also be taken out of the Rivercorp budget.
“I’ve been involved with Rivercorp for the past five years,” said Stewart. “The return on investment hasn’t been there. It hasn’t fulfilled my vision of what Rivercorp is supposed to be. I just can’t support them anymore.”
Storry said the lack of support for Rivercorp runs deeper.
“It’s not just council, the public’s lost faith,” said Storry. “The public has said we want these things to happen and we don’t think Rivercorp is the vehicle to do it.”
The city also has to make up a $22,924 Rivercorp deficit.
The RCMP budget was slashed by $36,519 in wages. Adams proposed the cut after discovering an extra staffer, a crime analyst, is not anticipated to begin work until May 1. Adams then went further, and decreased the city’s operations budget and the parks and recreation department’s budget by $260,000.
“I’ve been repeatedly looking at how to reduce operating expenditures,” said Adams. “We need to have our house in order and we can’t continue to deplete our reserves.
“We need to have some impact today (Friday) on the structural deficit.
“The dollar amount isn’t a lot in the grand scheme of things but it’s a start.”
Council also passed a motion for a review of all city department budgets to try and identify further reductions.
Cuts to services, dipping into reserves and increasing taxes left the city with a surplus of $328,003, which will likely be put towards next year’s budget.
Money taken out of reserves included:
- $479,561 from the Allowance for Assessment Appeals reserve to reduce the 2011 deficit.
- $200,000 from the fleet replacement reserve to go towards the 2011 deficit.
- $20,000 from the gaming reserve for a new RCMP finger printing machine.
- $15,000 from the gaming reserve for Campbell River Creative Industries Council to set up a booth at a tourism and development convention.
- $11,000 from the gaming reserve to Rivercorp for computers and a cash register.
In addition, a library lighting retrofit was approved at $12,000 from the community works fund; $450,000 from the parks parcel tax will go towards improving Robron Park and $9,500 will go to the Laughing Willow Community Garden from the parks parcel tax.