Council says some “good news stories” have emerged out of this year’s budget – including a smaller than expected tax increase.
Residential taxpayers will see their tax bill increase by four per cent while business taxes will rise by half a per cent, council decided Friday during its final day of budget discussions.
On an average home, assessed at $268,000, that means an extra $39 per year. An average business, valued at $147,000, will see an increase of roughly $25 per year.
All other tax sectors, including utilities, will not see any increase.
Council had toyed with the possibility of raising residential taxes by as much as 13 per cent to help balance the budget but a number of cuts and draws from reserves allowed council to work with a much smaller figure.
“I want to acknowledge there is some good news in this budget,” said Coun. Andy Adams who noted there’s now more clarity in how reserves are spent thanks to in-depth presentations by city staff and council was able to make more cuts in order to keep tax increases too high.
The first one per cent increase in residential taxes, which generates $147,000 for the city, will be used against the deficit for 2011 and dollars coming from the business tax increase, which generates $25,000 for the city, and the additional three per cent residential tax increase, will be put towards the structural deficit for 2012, which is expected to be worse than this year at $2.71 million.
“I think people will be very relieved at the small increase,” said Coun. Mary Storry.
After increasing tax rates, council then went to work chopping budgets.
The first to go was $36,519 from the RCMP budget. Adams proposed the cut after discovering an extra staffer, a crime analyst, is not anticipated to begin work until May 1. Laura Ciarniello, manager of corporate services, confirmed the employee would not arrive here for at least a month and there were costs associated with moving the worker from Vancouver to Campbell River in the RCMP budget.
Adams then went further, and decreased the city’s operations budget and the parks and recreation department’s budget by $260,000.
“I’ve been repeatedly looking at how to reduce operating expenditures,” said Adams. “We need to have our house in-order and we can’t continue to deplete our reserves. We need to have some impact today (Friday) on the structural deficit. The dollar amount isn’t a lot in the grand scheme of things but it’s a start.”
Council also passed a motion for a review of all city department budgets to try and identify further reductions.
For more on this story see Wednesday’s Mirror.