City taxes continue to climb with 2.45 per cent increase approved

It’s official.

City council gave its final seal of approval to a 2.45 per cent residential tax increase at its Monday night meeting.

Ron Bowles, the city’s corporate services manager, said Campbell River is so far the only municipality to approve its financial bylaw.

“It’s the first in the province,” he told council.

Council adopted its $63.4 million operating budget for 2016 and long-term financial plan ahead of the May deadline for municipalities to submit their budgets to the province.

Campbell River’s 2016 budget includes a $37 increase over last year for the average assessed Campbell River home, and a zero dollar increase for all other tax classes.

Campbell River taxpayers have seen their taxes steadily increase over the past few years.

Last year council approved a 1.69 per cent hike in property taxes while in 2014 taxes rose by 2.92 per cent and in 2013, taxes went up 3.91 per cent.

Last year also saw tax increases to the Utilities 2 and the Managed Forest class. Combined, those increases generated an additional $95,000 in revenue for the city.

The financial plan the city will be submitting to the province this time around differs from previous plans in that it’s looking ahead long-term.

“Congratulations to council and to finance staff,” Mayor Andy Adams said. “This is the earliest adoption of the financial plan and the first 10-year plan in this council’s history.”

Myriah Foort, the city’s finance manager, said it was the goal of city staff to deliver a budget to council that minimizes taxation impacts.

“The focus for 2016 financial planning has been to stabilize the annual tax rate increase for current and future years, while providing ongoing funding to maintain base service levels, allowing for moderate increases in service levels and also to provide funding for ongoing maintenance and investment in capital infrastructure,” Foort said in December when the budget was formed by council. “As such, the budget parameters include a conservative annual allocation for each component of the city’s budget and replaces the large swings in tax increases with consistent and predictable values.”

The budget includes money for increased downtown safety measures such as 15 extra hours a week for security downtown, as well as funding for increased video surveillance and support for the RCMP in investigating major crime.

Council also allocated $10,000 for improved lighting in downtown parking lots and for landscaping to make them cleaner and safer.

The financial plan also includes $125,000 for a downtown revitalization concept plan and design as well as $10,000 for the design of the city’s 3.5 acre waterfront property near Discovery Harbour marina and $20,000 to clean up the beach access at the southern end of the Maritime Heritage Centre parking lot.