Physical distancing during the last city council meeting. Two councillors attended in person, plus the mayor. Three more attended via phone. The next meetings will be done completely electronically. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

Revelstoke sticks with 6% property tax increase

‘It is much better to stay the course’

City council approved the five-year financial plan for Revelstoke, including a six per cent property tax increase.

“We need this to operate the community,” said Mayor Gary Sulz.

The tax increase will see the average home owner pay approximately $100 more per year. According to Tania McCabe, director of finance for the city, the average home is valued at $495,000 in Revelstoke.

READ MORE: City of Revelstoke proposing 6% property tax increase

READ MORE: ‘We are working flat out’: Clinic begs Revelstoke to act against COVID-19

Councillor Rob Elliott was the only one that opposed the motion, questioning why the city would add another expense to people during a health and financial crisis.

“Staying on the same path when faced with big unknowns seems reckless,” he said.

McCabe said it was better to stick with the planned increase, make adjustments later if needed as the city does not know how the COVID-19 crisis will influence their finances.

However, if the city was to cancel the tax increase, she said it would have a “dramatic” impact on the city and it’s ability to function and provide essential services, such as water and sewage.

Although many city employees have been sent home to work, Dawn Low, chief administration officer, said the city is not saving much money.

For example, city buildings still have to be maintained and even if they are empty, the city cannot shut off heat and power in case Interior Health needs them during the health crisis.

Low said work shifts for sewer, roads and trash collection are staggered, so if employees get sick the city can continue operating.

If the health crisis escalates, Low said more city employees may be called back to work to help.

When the budget was first proposed, Low noted in January, it was already “lean.”

Revelstoke city council meeting March 26. (Screen shot)

Of the proposed tax increase, 4.5 per cent will cover a $500,000 decrease in revenue due to Revelstoke Mountain Resort’s successful property assessment appeal last year.

The remaining 1.5 per cent is to increase contributions to two of the city’s reserve funds.

READ MORE: Revelstoke Mountain Resort’s successful property assessment appeal affects city’s budget

Residential property taxes are due July 2 and only the province has the power to adjust that date or waive late fees.

Regardless, city council this week pushed back the due date of commercial utility bills and broke them into two separate payments.

For commercial utility bills due April 30, the first half will now be due July 31 and the second payment is due Oct. 31.

Council also passed a motion to allow the city to borrow up to $3 million from the Revelstoke Credit Union.

“This is a stop-gap measure if we need it. If the property tax due date is changed,” McCabe said.

“It will only be used if we need it.”

The city said it’s expecting a loss of income due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Interest on the line of credit is charged at the Revelstoke Credit Union’s prime lending rate, which is currently set at 2.95 per cent.


 

@pointypeak701
liam.harrap@revelstokereview.com

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