Revelstoke council considers 2.5 per cent residential tax increase today

Latest version ups residential taxation to 2.5 per cent, drops commercial to one per cent and drops major industry -16 per cent.

Revelstoke city council has re-tweaked its plan to increase taxes for 2012 over the past few weeks, shaving just under one per cent off of overall increases, and shifting burden away from commercial and industrial properties and onto residential taxpayers.

Prior to a public comment period last month, council had been targeting two per cent increases across residential, commercial and industrial properties.

At its May 8 meeting, council looks set to approve a modified plan to be presented by city finance director Graham Inglis. Details of the proposal include:

– Residential property taxes will increase by 2.5 per cent, slightly more than the previous 2 per cent target.

– Light industry will remain the same at 2 per cent.

– Commercial (business) property taxes will increase by 1 per cent.

– Major industry will experience the biggest drop, down by 16.04 per cent. Downie Timber Ltd. is the only property in Revelstoke in this class. Company representatives lobbied council during budget deliberations, citing ongoing macro-economic woes in the lumber industry. In dollar terms, the reduction amounts to $45,000.

– Overall, the proposal trims 0.8 per cent off of the plan from a month ago, bringing overall increases down to 1.5 per cent from 2.3 per cent.

– Due to a drop in overall residential assessed values, the residential increase amounts to a $31 annual increase in 2012 for an average $350,000 home, although individual property assessments do vary.

– Under the previous ‘two per cent’ plan, council had hoped to build $3.2 million in surpluses over the 2012–2016 financial plan. With revisions, the anticipated accumulated surpluses drop to about $2.8 million.

Finance director Graham Inglis says the budget maintains existing city services. “I think we’ve tried to maintain services in the budget as they have been in the past,” Inglis said. “There’s no material cuts in any services that I’m aware of in the budget.”

He feels the increase is reasonable. “The budget itself is showing [about a] one per cent increase in operating costs a year over the five years, which I think is very reasonable when you consider what the rate of inflation is at the moment and what our cost pressures are,” Inglis said. “If we can maintain that, I think that will help our financial position.”

He also notes that council has put a new focus on building up reserve funds. “They’ve chosen the specific options that are before them on Tuesday, which shows increasing surpluses over the foreseeable future – over the next five years – which, I think is a good position to be in for the city,” Inglis said. “If we can achieve those surpluses over the next few years then that will help reduce our need for debt. That will put us in a better financial position for the future.”

Staff recommendations call for the first three readings of the budget bylaw on May 8. It seems likely the final version will be very similar in detail to the one above, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be minor tweaks, and vocal opposition from some dissenting council members.

The regular meeting starts at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, May 8 in Revelstoke council chambers.

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