Although the final numbers are yet to be cast in stone, proposed property taxes for Rossland residents will increase. Just how much isn’t known.
On Monday night city accountant Lois Hunter told council during a committee-of-the-whole discussion regarding the 2014-2018 draft financial plan that an additional $241,320 will be required from Rosslanders to help pay for the Columbia-Washington project upgrade.
Although an expected cost and approved last year through an alternate approval process by the community, that money will not include the expected rise in operational costs—fuel, labour, inflation—that council is grappling with.
Council has now tasked themselves with finding savings to cover the infrastructure project costs, plus operational increases, to keep the increase less than 6.7 per cent, the number needed to cover the additional debt.
“We’ve cut everything to the bone, but we’ll still keep looking for more,” said Mayor Greg Granstrom, noting that upwards of $50,000 in savings so far over 2013 has been combed from community granting.
”The city is trying to find additional savings to offset the cost of Columbia Washington. What we are looking for is efficiencies and cost savings that would offset that cost,” he said.
The city has not raised property taxes since 2009, largely due to an adjustment of staffing levels.
“But we’re at a point at City Hall where we are running pretty lean,” said Granstrom.
The 2014 property tax role for the city is expected to be $3.6 million, including a $33,345 non market changes addition (from BC Assessment figures).
But to help pay the cost of the city’s main infrastructure upgrade, an increase was needed to bump the role up to $3.85 million.
As the budget requirements now stand, homeowners in the city would have to pay around $1,739 in property taxes (assessed on the BC Assessment average home value in the city of $225,000)—a $109 increase.
If the city were to round the percentage increase off to seven per cent, it would inject $252,831 into city coffers ($114 increase per household). It would give the city $11,511 in additional revenue over and above the debt payment.
On the other side of the coin, a six per cent increase would parlay into a $216,712 increase, meaning taxes would rise $98 on the average home. Council is also looking at scenarios where as little as a four per cent increase would work (a $65 increase to taxes).
Council will still investigate ways to save the money elsewhere in the budget, however, as line items are trimmed to help absorb the amount required to service the project debt.
Councilor Cary Fisher wondered how much the regional district requisition would be going up—and he indicated it would—in order to adjust the budget even further to accommodate that increase as well.
Councilor Jill Spearn said it was fine to cut to cover the city’s rising costs, but what about trimming further to reduce the regional district impact.
“What is the bottom line for the increase from the regional district and when will we know that?” she asked councilor Kathy Wallace, the city’s representative on the board.
At the current pace, the city will have its budget done before the regional district would file its budget, complete with increases going out to its member municipalities and electoral areas.
“Are you thinking that, because the regional district is higher, we cut services?” asked Mayor Greg Granstrom.
“I am thinking that,” said Fisher.
“It does impact our decision making,” added Spearn. “We always get caught between the rock and the hard place because our increases are down the hill.
“We have been in a position where we have been holding our taxes back, but now we are in a position where we have to raise our taxes and as, per usual, will be paying more to the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary. I would like to know those numbers, as least preliminary, before we make final decisions.”
Wallace said all regional district budgets are preliminary at this point and have not been approved. There are links on the regional district website to agendas with information on where the budget discussion is heading.
She noted that the cost to provide sewer service (pipe bridge) will be going up, as well as a preliminary three per cent increase to fire service.
After dealing with community grants, as well as some talk about capital spending and operations, council now will delve into decisions on capital projects and operations, as well as what goes into reserves.