The City of Castlegar will be increasing its property tax rate by 6.65 per cent once the 2023 budget and five year financial plan is adopted.
According to the city, that’s an annual increase of about $79 for most homeowners when calculated against the community’s average residential assessment of $419,438.
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.
In 2022 the average homeowner paid $1180 in property taxes and this year they can expect to pay about $1258.
The rate for business and light industrial property owners will increase by 6.69 per cent. They can expect their bills to increase by about $368, based on an average assessment of $471,356.
The proposed budget results in an overall tax acquisition increase of $627,460.
The draft version of the budget was posted on the city’s website in early December, but the city’s financial manager Ola Oladele reported to council that the city did not receive a single submission or comment during the public review and comment period of Dec. 9 – 30.
No one showed up in person to the city’s budget open house on Jan. 5 and only one person watched it live online.
Cost drivers for the budget increase include insurance premiums, union and contractual agreements, payroll expenses (CPP, EI, WCB), new regulatory requirements, COVID-19, RCMP increases, and expenses related to strategic plans, asset management plans and master plans.
Each $95,000 in new spending equals a one-per-cent rate increase.
The budget includes $28.6 million in operating expenses and $12.9 million in capital expenses. Just over $12 million of those budgets needs to be supplied through taxation. The rest of the money comes from things like requisitions, user fees, grants and government transfers.
Council came to a consensus on the draft budget a few weeks ago after several days of deliberations.
It they had approved all of the new budget requests on the table, a 16-per-cent increase would have been necessary.
Some of those requests had to be removed, deferred or paid for from reserves to keep the increase at 6.65 per cent.
Non-discretionary inflation adjustments came in at a 4.11-per-cent increase this year and the infrastructure investment levy was set at 1.99 per cent. Leaving only .55 per cent of the increase for new spending.
“We recognize it is not an insignificant increase,” said Castlegar CAO Chris Barlow. “Right from the start, the infrastructure levy is at two per cent and the non-discretionary inflation adjustment — that inflation adjustment everybody is feeling everywhere, we as a municipality are feeling it too — [was about four per cent] at the beginning we are already at six per cent.
“It is a credit to staff and especially for council and the work they did that we only have an increase of .55 per cent.”
Barlow said that in most years the non-discretionary inflation adjustment is usually lower, at around two per cent.
For 2023, the $12.9 million in capital projects were prioritized by those that were carried over from 2022 and those that were needed to meet regulatory requirements, grant commitments or safety issues.
The budget includes $2 million for sewer projects, $2.4 million for parks projects, $677,000 for water projects, $1.4 million for transportation and civic works and $1.9 million for fleet and equipment purchases.
Phase 3 of the Columbia Avenue Redevelopment project was pushed to next year in hopes interest rates would lower as the project will require borrowing.
Funding will come from $6 million in reserves, $4.7 million in grants, $1.7 million in debt and $477,000 from the infrastructure levy.
Items that were removed from the capital budget were $95,000 to light the dog park at Millennium Park (requiring a one-per-cent tax increase) and a covered staircase for 7th Avenue at $80,000. Basket ball courts for Kinnaird Park ($125,000) were deferred to 2025.
Water, sewer and garbage rates will also be going up in 2023.
The increases add up to a total of about $48 per year, or $4 per month for the average consumer.