Coldstream farm operations are getting a break.
A majority of council voted Monday to reduce the tax multiplier from 4.5 to one to 2.4 to one for farm class properties.
“There is a comparable average among other municipalities and it was a matter of moving towards that over three years,” said Coun. Doug Dirk.
However, some council members opposed farm properties paying 2.4 times the residential rate.
“Coldstream already has favourable treatment for improvements on farms,” said Coun. Richard Enns, who states the property that will benefit the most is Coldstream Ranch, which also has non-farm uses.
“Coldstream Ranch is not just a farm.”
Enns added that Coldstream Ranch receives road maintenance and fire services from the municipality and the district is kept busy with ranch-related issues such as gravel pits and the state of Coldstream Creek.
“We should not shift the burden on to other taxpayers.”
For 2016, a 2.4 multiplier equates to $15,300 shifted from the farm class to other property classes. Based on the average residential property at $491,473, the shift would increase taxes by $3.25
Staff insisted that the farm tax multiplier does not cover the ranch’s industrial activities.
“They get assessed based on the use of the property,” said Trevor Seibel, chief administrative officer.
In a report, Patricia Higgins, director of financial administration, stated that a rate of 2.4 to one compares to Coldstream’s business class rate.
An attempt by Enns to keep the tax multiplier at 4.5 to one was defeated, with the only support coming from Councillors Doug Dirk and Gyula Kiss.
Coldstream Ranch has called for tax changes for a number of years, and in 2015, owner Keith Balcaen made a presentation to council.
“The tax is hurting, it’s hurting a lot. It’s almost like you’re being penalized for being in the agricultural sector,” he said then.
A concern for Balcaen was farm properties in other communities paying less tax.
Coldstream council has given two readings to the proposed 2016 budget bylaw, which includes a 3.5 per cent tax increase.
“It will now go to the public and they will be able to give feedback on the financial plan,” said Mayor Jim Garlick.