City taxes to creep up in 2015

Discussion: Council agrees to 1.9 per cent hike for taxpayers.

Although the overall increase in spending proposed for the City of Salmon Arm in 2015 is 3.9 per cent, taxpayers will be paying about half that – 1.9 per cent – on their 2015 tax bill.

For the owner of what’s considered an average house of $280,000 in Salmon Arm, that translates to a $25 tax increase. However, a $22.70 reduction per household in the cost of recycling/garbage pickup, plus an $18 increase in the water and sewer utilities, ends up with a $20.30 increase for that average home.

Businesses will see a $21.50 increase for each $100,000 of assessed value, as well as a $17 increase across the board for utilities.

On Thursday, Oct. 9, council members went through the $30 million budget prepared by staff to see if they could whittle down the proposed four per cent increase in spending – which they did by .1 per cent. Two per cent is the estimated amount for growth – which will fund changes in various operational costs. That left another two per cent for taxpayers to cover, which council reduced to 1.9 per cent.

The tax rate will be finalized in May 2015 by a new council once all assessed numbers are in, as well as tax rates from other governments.

Monica Dalziel, the city’s chief financial officer, explained the tax increase is largely attributed to a one per cent increase in capital funding in transportation, which includes a variety of costs ranging from drainage to sidewalks, to roads and new equipment. The other one per cent is for increased costs for ice and snow control. The snow and ice control reserve has now been depleted.

For Coun. Marg Kentel, for whom this is her last city budget as she isn’t seeking re-election, the highlight was the proposed Ross Street Underpass.

“The one big one for me is we’re moving ahead toward getting the underpass, which will be a major part of our transportation network in Salmon Arm when it does come to fruition. To me that’s a highlight.”

The detailed design of the underpass is scheduled for 2015, to be funded from the Development Cost Charge Underpass Reserve Fund at a cost of $470,000.

Overall, Kentel termed the budget “well-rounded” and “prudent.”

Under highlights, Mayor Nancy Cooper said she was pleased to learn the arena debenture had been renewed with the interest rate dropping from 3.15 to 2.10 per cent for a saving of $73,500.

She also mentioned $20,000 towards the flood hazard assessment, and $30,000 in a reserve for public transit. She noted that installation of storm sewer with curb and gutter along 46th Avenue SE in the industrial park will proceed.

Coun. Ken Jamieson pointed out that the 1.9 per cent tax increase is close to the current rate of inflation. Under big-ticket items, he mentioned the foreshore sewer line project, as well as the storm-sewer installation in the industrial park. He also listed “smaller but important expenditures” such as the flood-risk assessment funding, improvements to parks in town – notably phase two at Jackson Park in Canoe, a contribution to help with building on the fairgrounds, and a safe and at-grade pedestrian crossing at Narcisse Avenue (the Churches Thrift Store crossing).

Coun. Chad Eliason said he thinks the most important part of the budget was keeping the tax increase below two per cent – and staying within the city’s long-term financial plan.

“It’s very hard to operate a city with zero tax increases when the costs associated with running a city that are out of our control continue to increase,” he said, referring to items such as the policing budget.

He noted this is the first time in his tenure that council has completed the budget prior to the election of a new council, but he thinks it was the right move because of the large projects council has committed to: borrowing for the cemetery, upgrades to Blackburn Park and replacement of the foreshore sewer main.

Coun. Denise Reimer is comfortable with the 1.9 per cent increase, noting such costs as new provincial contaminated sites legislation as well as policing, which council can’t control.

She termed the foreshore sewer main project “a must,” which has required an increase to sewer user fees of 5.29 per cent. She hopes the city’s application for federal funding will be successful and will offset user fee increases in 2016. She, too, is pleased with funds for the flood risk assessment.

Coun. Debbie Cannon said she was excited to get $30,000 in a reserve to support an extension of transit services, and is pleased the storm sewer extension will proceed on 46th Avenue in the industrial park.

Another highlight was keeping $10,000 in the budget for greenways planning, as well as $20,000 for the flood assessment.

She also mentioned the importance of the foreshore sewer main, and noted the costs over which council has no control.

“I think, all in all, to keep it at a 1.9 per cent increase is not bad.”

Coun. Alan Harrison said he would have liked to have seen cost reductions in a few more areas, but overall he thinks the budget is fair.

General highlights for him are in core funding, such as sustaining current manpower for the police and fire departments, and increasing the snow removal budget for both roads and sidewalks.

Along with the foreshore sanitary sewer main and the cemetery, he mentioned three smaller projects: completion of resurfacing of the McGuire Lake Walk, refurbishing the Canoe Ball Park infields and $415,000 to alleviate the drainage problems on 46th Avenue in the industrial park.

 

 

Salmon Arm Observer