How do the candidates feel the Campbell River municipal tax rate stacks up compared to other cities? The Mirror found out when it asked them on Monday night. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror

Where do Campbell River council candidates stand on municipal tax increases?

Differing views on how too keep taxes down – or whether that is even possible

Always a contentious issue, the candidates for the upcoming municipal election took some time to address the current municipal tax rate at the Mirror’s all-candidates forum on Monday night at the Tidemark.

The candidates on hand that night had some differing views on how too keep taxes down – or whether that is even possible.

Kermit Dahl says it’s not just the percentage rising that leads to the struggles people are having with them, it’s also the rise in assessed value of their homes.

“House prices have gone up in Campbell River, for a lot of people, 20 or 30 per cent in the past two years, so with the tax rates we have and the assessed values we now have, our property tax costs, I think, have gotten too high,” Dahl says. “I’d like to see some new ways of generating revenue in Campbell River other than just raising taxes. There are other ways to make money. Raising taxes isn’t the only way.”

Colleen Evans says that when Campbell River is compared to other communities, we consistently come in somewhere in the middle in terms of municipal tax rate – and she thinks for the services offered in exchange for those taxes, we come out pretty well.

“We do an annual comparative with 22 other communities every year,” Evans says. “In 2018, the B.C. annual taxation average was $2,351 and Campbell River’s was $1,984. Nobody likes taxation, but it’s the reality of being able to offer the kinds of services and programs that we all want in our community.”

RELATED: Which communities are paying the highest taxes on Vancouver Island?

Ron Kerr says he understands the community’s concern when it comes to tax increases, council does its best to balance all the service requests it gets with what it feels is reasonable to ask of the taxpayer.

“Having a 10 year financial plan allows us to spread some of those tough decisions out along the 10 years, and we know that we can start planning for them and get grants that are going to be required to pay for them,” Kerr says, adding long term planning is what allows council to keep the tax increases as low as they are rather than have sudden spikes like what happened when the mill shut down.

Marlene Wright points out that many people don’t realize what portion of their annual bill is actually municipal taxation, making it seem like the city is collecting more than other communities do.

“We bundle municipal taxes and the service taxes together, so it can look like it’s very expensive compared to other places, like Courtenay, for example,” Wright says, adding that she agrees with Kerr’s assesment of the 10 year plan allowing council to balance increases out over time and keep them to a minimum.

Michele Babchuk echoed those sentiments, adding that the costs of the things the city spends money on rise over time, just like everything else, and they can’t continue to deliver the same services for the same cost year after year.

Babchuk says over the last four years, the tax increases in Campbell River have been 1.7, 2.4, 2.5 and 2.1 per cent, “when we’ve watched other communities up and down this island hit seven or eight per cent, depending on what they’re trying to build, so I think we’ve done a great job.”

Allan Buxton looked at a different statistic and says there’s also geography to consider. There are obviously more municipal costs, he says, associated with Campbell River being large – physically – relative to its tax-paying population.

Comox, with a population around 14,000, covers an area of 14 square kilometres, and Courtenay’s 25,000 people cover 28 square kilometres. Campbell River, on the other hand, has a population of 37,000 people spread out over 141 square kilometres, so he thinks council “has done a pretty good job” when it comes to keeping taxes down.

He does add, however that he sees increasing taxation as “the last resort when all other avenues have been exhausted.”

Charlie Cornfield says he’s of the opinion that council needs to start learning to live within its means and stop approving service level increases.

“I do not favour increasing taxes every year,” Cornfield says. “I believe it’s our job to keep them as low as possible, so council needs to learn to say no.”

You can watch Monday night’s forum in its entirety on the Mirror’s Facebook page at facebook.com/campbellrivermirror

Just Posted

We Wai Kai and B.C. sign incremental Treaty Agreement, move a step closer to treaty

The We Wai Kai Nation and the Province of British Columbia have… Continue reading

B.C. salmon farm inspection deal reached with Indigenous people

Monitoring to determine if any Broughton region farms stay open

Compromise found on grocery store size in south Campbell River subdivision

Approved increase less than developer wanted, but will still allow for some flexibility

City of Campbell River looks to improve environmental protection during development

Changes to mapping environmentally sensitive areas and how permitting process works is under review

VIDEO: Grizzly bears fight along northern B.C. highway in rare footage

Cari McGillivray posted the head-turning video, shot near Stewart, B.C., to social media

Handgun crackdown, health spending and transit plans latest campaign promises

Friday was the end of a busy week on the campaign trail

B.C. woman photographs massive ant swarm on Abbotsford driveway

She asked what the ants were doing? The answer: war

Police arrest B.C. phone scammer linked to illegal call centres in India

Person arrested in Burnaby here on a work visa, says police

Air Canada forced girl, 12, to remove hijab: civil rights group

The San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations calling for change

Man from Winnipeg who was hiking alone found dead in Banff National Park

RCMP say the man was hiking alone on Mount Temple Thursday

Takaya, B.C.’s intriguing lone wolf, seen eating seal and howling away on Discovery Island

Fun facts about Takaya the wolf, like his a 36-hour tour around Chatham, Discovery Islands

Resident finds loaded shotgun inside a duffle bag in Kelowna alleyway

RCMP seized a loaded 12-gauge shotgun, ammunition, clothing and other items

Graffiti, calls and Snapchat: RCMP probe string of threats targeting Kamloops schools

There have been nine different threats made to four different schools in the city

Most Read