The average homeowner in Campbell River can expect actually see a smaller total at the bottom of their municipal tax bill in 2021 than they did this year.
Campbell River city council gave first three readings to their 2021-2030 financial plan on Dec. 9, but not before councilors found a way to lower the municipal tax increase by almost another full percentage point, getting it down to 1.95 per cent.
At the end of its three-day financial deliberations back in late October, council couldn’t manage to get the tax increase below 3.5 per cent. They considered this too big a burden on the taxpayers, so they sent staff away to find more savings.
Staff came back at the Nov. 30 meeting with a proposal that would see the tax rate increase only 2.78 per cent – which was below the 2.85 requested by council. They acheived this by using some of the city’s $4.6 million provincial COVID-19 Safe Restart Grant money, which was announced after financial planning deliberations.
Council then decided at the Dec. 9 meeting to use more of that provincial grant money to completely cover the airport operations deficit for next year, further lowering tax rate increase to 1.95 per cent.
Mayor Andy Adams says that when that between that tax rate increase and the expected lower requisitions from both Comox Strathcona Regional Waste Management and the Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital District, the average homeowner in Campbell River should see a savings on their tax bill next year.
“I think what we have done on behalf of our taxpayers is where we all wanted to be,” Adams says. “That’s to provide as good a break as we could, and there is additional relief coming from reductions in the regional hospital board and regional solid waste services, as well, that will be of further assistance to our residents.”
The 2.78 per cent increase they approved at the Nov. 30 meeting would have equated to a $59 per year increase for the average home – assessed at $442,000 – and with the change to a 1.95 per cent increase, that amount is lowered to approximately $41.
Adams says the amount CSWM will be charging Campbell River residents is expected to come in at $16 less than last year and the amount CSRH is requisitioning is expected to come in $64 lower, for a total of $80 less coming out of Campbell River taxpayers’ pockets for those services.
He admits, however, that the low tax increase this year could come back to bite taxpayers down the road.
“Anytime you are having a tax rate [increase] that is less than the rate of inflation – or at least less than the highest cost to the city is increasing, and that’s our collective bargaining agreements – there is the risk that you’re encumbering future councils to make up that difference.”
He thinks it was worth it in this case, though.
“These are extraordinary times that are calling for extraordinary measures to provide relief to our citizens, and I appreciate council working through this to be able to get there,” Adams says. “We still have a lot of work to do, and that work will continue when we delve into our strategic plan in the first quarter and also take a look at the remaining $3 million in restart money and determine how we are going to strategically use that to ensure operations of the city and protection of our citizens.”
The budget is expected to be officially passed Dec. 14.