At a virtually-held meeting on Tuesday, April 14, Kimberley City Council unanimously passed a motion to limit the variable property tax rate increase to zero per cent for the 2020 fiscal year.
“Local governments are very restricted by legislation on things that we can and can not do, particularly as it pertains to the use of taxpayer money,” Mayor Don McCormick told the Bulletin. “So there are precious few ways that we can tangibly contribute in this situation right now that is challenging for everybody and our ability to set our rates of taxation is one tangible way that we can do that.”
The original budgeting called for a 2.2 per cent increase in taxes for 2020, but with the COVID-19 pandemic creating difficult economic times for residents and business owners alike, the City has been looking at ways they can provide some relief.
“While in terms of dollars and cents this may not be that tangible, what it is is a recognition of the challenging times we’re in and a communication to our community and our taxpayers that we’re with you in this, we’re all in it together,” McCormick explained.
In order to pay for this, the City is essentially borrowing $139,539 from their accumulated surplus.
In addition to the variable tax rate being reduced to zero per cent, the City has also passed on savings that have accrued to date with recreation facilities being closed.
“We’ve decided to pass those savings on to the taxpayers this year because, well just because,” McCormick said. “It’s the right thing to do.”
He added that it’s important to note that this is just a deferral as next year the recreation facilities will be back open and that money will need to be there in order to operate those facilities. The City is banking on accumulating new revenues over the course of the next year to be able to pay for that, and if not, an increase will need to be reflected in the variable tax rate next year.
“We’re doing what we can with what it is what we have to work with and we’re all in it together and we’re trying to do our part.”
Another motion passed on Tuesday was an alternative municipal tax collection scheme, which allows for alternate due dates for the payment of property taxes.
Taxes that are not paid on the traditional due date of July 1 are usually subject to a 10 per cent penalty. This alternative tax collection scheme allows residents who may have difficulty paying by that date to pay any time up to a second date of the City’s choice, which is September 1.
Now, if taxes aren’t paid by July 1 the penalty is reduced to five per cent and if not paid by September 1 the 10 per cent penalty applies.
“The 10 per cent penalty is non-optional, that’s a legislated penalty that the City of Kimberley has no control over,” McCormick explained. “So what we’re trying to do with this alternate scheme is spread it out, make the penalty less in the short term to allow people an extra few months beyond July 1 to get those payments made.”
Council also passed a mutual aid agreement between Kimberley and Cranbrook. Cities have been encouraged by the provincial government to partner with neighbouring communities on essential services delivery to ensure there is a backup in place in the event that something happens.
“With Cranbrook being literally next door to us, it makes sense for us to be able to support one another in ensuring that services like water and sewer remain active no matter what the situation externally.”
This pertains to operational staff, not infrastructure, meaning that if, for example, a staff member at Kimberley’s wastewater treatment plant got sick, Kimberley would look to Cranbrook for back up and vice versa. McCormick said he is unsure if Cranbrook has passed their motion yet, but he expects it will be done eminently.