Revelstoke City Council passed a 2014 budget calling for a two per cent increase in residential property taxes and one per cent increase in the business tax rate.
The increases are a fraction of the 3.9 per cent increase that was put forward in the initial budget draft tabled in November. It follows a town hall in January where residents expressed their displeasure about city finances.
Council rejected an alternate plan that would see no increase in business taxes.
“I am pleased to see the budget process completed early this year and look forward to all the benefits that the improved process will deliver towards the efficiency of City operations,” said Mayor David Raven in a news release.
As well, water rates are going up by 10.1 per cent to $369 and sewer rates by 4.4 per cent to $235.
According to a report presented to council at a special meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 4, the new budget reduces the 2014 surplus to $51,726.
The budget forecasts a reduction of property tax revenues from 2013 to 2014 of about $30,000, from $8.88 million to $8.85 million. Overall, it forecasts an increase in revenue of 1.9 per cent, to $22,733,685.
Property tax growth from new construction is forecast to grow by three per cent annually.
The revised budget eliminates $800,000 in borrowing by cancelling most of the planned renovations for city hall. The $250,000 stucco replacement and $300,000 elevator addition have been cancelled and the $250,000 interior renovations will be funded through reserves.
Other capital projects in the 2014 budget are $80,000 for washrooms in Kovach Park, $50,000 for the skateboard park (over the next three years), $30,000 for the pump track in Centennial Park, $200,000 for the Trans-Canada Highway water main, $60,000 per year over the next five years for fire hydrant replacement and $200,000 for a scrubber for odour control at the sewage treatment plant.
Road construction is budgeted at $2.8 million over the next five years. The financial plan states this is a higher rate than at which it is degrading, but it may not be enough to make up for the accumulated infrastructure deficit.
Looking ahead, the plan calls for $4.5 million to be budgeted to relocate the sewage outflow from the Illecillewaet River to the Columbia River and $1 million to replace the Downie force main. Both projects are set to start in 2015.
The budget also no longer calls for the addition of an extra RCMP officer, cuts some work hours to save on employment costs, and includes $42,500 over the next two years for more departmental reviews.
The plan also looks to reduce the city’s reliance on borrowing and reduce its debt. There is no more borrowing for road construction and for any long-term water projects. General and water debt get is expected to decrease by more than $3 million by the end of the five-year plan, but that will be somewhat offset by a $2 million increase in sewer debt, due to borrowing for outflow relocation and upgrades to the sewage treatment plan. Overall the debt to asset ratio is projected to decrease to 21.42 per cent in 2018 from 27.31 per cent this year.
The financial plan also calls for an increase in the city’s reserves, part of the plan to decrease the reliance on borrowing to pay for major projects.
“The City is committed to continuing to find new ways of operating with fewer resources while maintaining service levels keeping in mind that the community survey clearly indicated that overall citizens want the City to retain our current high service levels,” said Chief Administrative Officer Tim Palmer in a news release.
The tax increases for all classes are as follows:
Class 1 (residential) – 2 per cent
Class 2 (utility) – 7.96 per cent
Class 4 (major industrial) – 4.25 per cent
Class 5 (light industry) – 2 per cent
Class 6 (business) – 1 per cent
Class 8 (seasonal) – 2 per cent
What all this means is that somebody with a home that was assessed at $250,000 in 2013 will see their taxes increase by $22 this year, to $1,124. A business assessed at $250,000 in 2013 will see their taxes go up by $46.
The increases reduce the tax rate ratio between business and residential to 3.99:1 compared to 4.15:1 in 2013). The Revelstoke Chamber of Commerce is advocating that the city move towards a 2:1 ratio within five years.
You can read the complete five year financial plan by clicking here.