After years of rising property tax rates, City of Terrace aims for zero tax hike

If preliminary calculations hold up, the city is poised to roll out a rate increase-free budget for 2015

The City of Terrace has been deep in budget deliberations for the last couple of weeks.

After years of rising property tax rates, the City of Terrace is poised to roll out a rate increase-free budget for 2015 if preliminary calculations hold up.

An increase in property tax revenue from last year’s new construction of homes and commercial buildings is being credited as the main reason for this, however there are still budget items being looked at which could nudge up the tax rate.

City councillors began looking at projections this week with a provisional budget of just under $22 million under consideration compared to last year’s final budget of just over $20 million.

Of this, they are expecting $11,800,000 in property tax from business and residences which is $750,000 more than last year.

The BC Assessment Office looked at 32 more residential properties for 2015 than it did for 2014. The total assessed value from residential and commercial and other classes now stand at $1,722,636,000, an increase of $403,737,000 or 30 per cent over last year.

Dollar gains will come from residential buildings constructed last year and from commercial construction on what was raw land with city corporate administrator Alisa Thompson citing the new Kondola’s building on Keith Ave. as an example of the latter.

Overall, tax revenue from new construction is being channelled into general revenue, but some of it will cover the wage increases in the city’s new three-year contract with its unionized workers and wage increases for its non-union employees.

Homeowners worried the average 30 per cent assessment jump in single family home values this year compared to last year would mean an increase in taxes will be at least partially put at ease about the new budget.

“If your house [assessment] went up by 30 per cent we adjusted your rate and you will pay the same as last year. If it went up less than 30 per cent you will pay less than last year and if it went up more than 30 per cent it will go up more,” said Thompson. She noted that assessments are based on values of homes which is calculated by the B.C. Assessment Authority and independent of the city.

The city raised its residential tax rate by two per cent in each of the past two years.

According to Thompson, the proposed budget will “hold the line on services” and focus on not raising taxes.

Still, residents can expect to pay more for specific city services.

One service expense that might rise is the cost of garbage pick up because the city is buying new toter bins for distribution to residents to coincide with the purchase of new garbage trucks possibly later this year. The new trucks will have automated arms that will extend out to pick up the wheeled garbage toters which will then be raised up and emptied.

This will mean the cost for pick-up and disposal per can (there’s a limit of two cans per household) will rise from $2 to $4.75 as the toters cost $525,000.

In terms of specific expenditures, the provisional budget calls for spending in general administration to increase from $788,150 to $1,023,539, a 23 per cent increase, to cover wages, travel and rising legal fees.

The city’s portion of local RCMP spending is rising to $3,771,148 from $3,690,176 which is a 2.2 per cent rise, and the leisure services department’s spending on recreation is forecast to rise to $2,667,514 from $2,615,143, a two per cent rise.

The spending of public works is rising four per cent to $3,091,462, up from $2,957,745, while development services spending is to increase about six per cent to $1,175,504 up from $1,102,091.