Two per cent tax increase coming

Details of the 2014 Tax Bylaw are becoming clearer as the city's budget talks progress.

Details of the 2014 Tax Bylaw are becoming clearer as the city’s budget talks progress.

The provisional budget has pegged a tax increase for business and residential properties at two per cent, which mirrors last year’s increase.

“Existing tax payers can expect a two per cent tax increase over last year,” said city finance director Ron Bowles.

He added that the increase, if approved by council resolution in February, would see the two per cent increase applied equally to both business and residential properties.

However, the property tax money owed by individual homes or businesses could be higher or lower than previous years depending on assessments.

The tax increase needed to keep up with rising costs could have been 2.8 per cent if it weren’t for an increase in revenue from new construction last year, said Bowles.

“We do have some new taxpayers in town. We are projecting about another $160,000 in taxes from new development. In a nutshell, that’s allowed us to keep it at two per cent.”

The reason for the continual rise in tax rates year after year is due to inflation, Bowles continued.

“Every year, if we want to maintain the same level of services [including providing water, garbage removal, sewer maintenance and snow removal] we have to somehow come up with funds to pay for the costs that are rising. We are in an inflationary climate.”

“It costs much more to build a road right now. It costs more for fuel. It costs much more for hydro,” said Bowles, adding that RCMP operational costs and public employee wages are also up.

Rising property taxes may not be the norm forever, though, as city council passed a resolution in December to use tax money from sold or leased city lands at the Skeena Industrial Development Park to bring residential and business property taxes down in future years.

The city is planning to host a budget open house where residents can come and give their input this winter, though an exact date has not been selected.

There are still several aspects of the 2014 Tax Bylaw  that need to be finalized, including tax share proportions.

This could mean some change in the proportion of property tax that businesses and residents pay.