After weeks of meetings and hard decisions, Castlegar city council has approved a draft budget for 2021 and a draft five-year financial plan covering 2021-25.
The budget includes a tax increase of 3.88 per cent for residential and commercial properties.
The five-year financial plan approved last year originally included a tax increase for 2021 of 7.6 per cent. The reduction in the increase was achieved by reducing or cutting budget items and putting some projects off to a future year.
According to city calculations, the increase works out to be $3.56 per month ($42.72 annually) for residential properties and $10.93 per month ($131.16 annually) for businesses.
Those figures are based on 2020 property assessments, which put the average Castlegar house at $327,000. It is important to note that assessed property values provided by BC Assessment are not the same as selling prices. Cities use the BC Assessment figures when calculating property taxes.
New assessments for 2021 are arriving in mailboxes this week and according to BC Assessment, the average house in Castlegar increased in value by eight per cent. That increase is not enough to make a significant difference in the average cost forecasted by the city, rather it would just add a few dollars annually.
It is also important to remember that not all of the money collected by a municipal government on property taxes is for the city. Cities also collect taxes from residents on behalf of regional districts and the province. Last year’s (2020) municipal tax rate was 3.3623 per cent. The total tax rate, including RDCK and other provincial requisitions, was 7.2681 per cent.
Key items in the 2021 budget include the Columbia Avenue Phase 2 Redevelopment Project, upgrading the washroom/shower facility at Millennium Park and Ponds, developing a city-wide housing strategy, website updates to add online services and improve information sharing in response to a recent community-wide survey, and increasing bylaw enforcement to full time.
Back in November, the city received $2.18 million from the federal/provincial Safe Restart program. The draft budget allocates some of that money for a full-time bylaw officer. Another portion will be used to support operations at the West Kootenay Regional Airport, which has seen a huge hit to revenue due to the cancellation of commercial flights. Even though those flights were cancelled, the city is still responsible for maintaining safety and certification standards with Transport Canada and other flights such as private, Southeast Fire Centre and medevac continue to land.
How to spend the remaining funds will be decided on at a later date.
The city’s draft 2021 budget is available at castlegar.ca/budget2021.
Two online open houses will be held to allow the public to provide input about the budget. They will be held on Jan. 18 at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Visit castlegar.ca/BudgetOpenHouse to join the Zoom session or call 1-647-558-0588. Webinar ID: 818 9049 6715 and passcode: 306802
You can also comment online at castlegar.ca/Budget2021 or by email to email@example.com before Jan 15.