City council has endorsed a 1.69 per cent property tax increase for Campbell River taxpayers.
That equates to $24.02 more for the average assessed home and a $246.62 increase for the average business in 2015.
Council arrived at that figure Wednesday afternoon following three days of 2015-2019 financial plan deliberations.
Council started the day with a 4.07 per cent tax increase but slimmed that figure down through eliminating certain projects, such as snow removal, and by using reserve monies to fund services such as parking lot upgrades, a new graffiti clean-up program and portable washrooms for community events.
But the decision that made the greatest dent in the tax increase was to take $200,000 from the city’s general operating surplus.
The motion was made by Coun. Larry Samson and approved by council, with councillors Colleen Evans and Michele Babchuk opposed.
Samson made the motion after council was stuck at a 2.64 per cent tax increase following more than four hours of deliberations.
Coun. Charlie Cornfield agreed with Samson’s recommendation, sensing that council wasn’t willing to cut any further.
“I would have preferred a more harder decision looking at what we can eliminate to reduce that rate but if council is at the point where it doesn’t want to reduce activities further and it wants a lower tax increase, then this is one of the only ways to do that,” Cornfield said.
Coun. Babchuk said she couldn’t support using the surplus monies because she was worried about the impact it may have on the city’s reserves, which are similar to savings accounts.
“I have a significant concern when drawing on the surplus or drawing on reserves more when, as a new councillor, I have a hard time wrapping my head around what those reserves are for,” Babchuk said. “I don’t believe we’re in that big of a quandary here right now.
“I would like to see it come down a bit more but not enough that I would like to see it come out of reserves.”
The surplus that council is using to lower the tax rate is a portion of the money that council sets aside to pay off the city’s bills as they come in, to tide the city over until revenues start to come in. Those funds ensure that the city doesn’t have to borrow money in order to pay its bills, Coun. Cornfield said.
As Mayor Andy Adams has warned for years, he reiterated Wednesday that council needs to rely less on its reserves and limit its draws on those accounts.
He said while it’s nice to see the tax rate kept as low as council could, it comes at a cost.
“To get to 1.69 is good on one side but still leaves work to do on the other side,” Adams said. “We still have the outstanding issue of having to replenish our reserves.”
For more on the budget, see Friday’s edition of the Mirror.