Wednesday, March 25, 2015

PoCo sees minor tax-rate increase

Property owners in PoCo will see a pretty minor increase on their tax bills later this spring.
On Monday, PoCo council gave the first three readings to the budget, which includes a property-tax increase of 1.49 per cent, which works out to $29 for the average single-family home (valued at $526,175), $22 for the average townhouse and $13 for the average apartment.
A 3.4-per-cent increase to the solid waste levy adds an additional $6 to the total tax increase for the year.
Broken down, $25 of the increase is going toward financing the cost of a new recreation centre, while the other $4 is being put away for long-term infrastructure funding.
Mayor Greg Moore suggested without the two projects, the city could have offered residents another year without a property tax increase.
However, he said based on feedback from residents, the public is willing to pay extra for a new recreation centre.  
“We felt we had a pretty good indication from our residents that they were wanting to see the rec centre expanded and therefore to see this part of the tax go up for it,” the mayor said.
Last year, the city passed a budget that included a 0.21-per-cent decrease, the first in recent memory.
Moore said he’s hopeful the city can continue to keep tax increases low in the years to come, noting the municipality is looking at ways to do the budget differently in the future that will yield even more savings.  
The budget includes additional spending of $2.76 million on “one-time enhancements” funded by surplus and reserve, including:
• Planning, design and public consultation for the Community Recreation Complex ($1.5 million)
• Roll-out costs for the new bear-proof waste cart locks ($141,000)
• Chafer beetle control on city lands, including the cemetery ($104,200)
• Purchase of a city-owned May Day float, rather than renting one (55,000)
• Start-up costs for a Biz Directory, a searchable listing of licensed businesses ($20,000)
• Development of a mobile app enabling residents to access a range of city services ($15,000)
• Decorative lighting for City Hall exterior, both year-round and for special events ($75,000)
• Personnel to pursue revenue-generation projects ($33,000)
• Start-up costs for the north-side Christmas light display ($40,000)
• Costs associated with demolition and cleanup at the public health building site ($200,000)
• Purchase of additional waste carts and kitchen pails (104,700)
• Renovations at Fire Hall No. 2 ($70,000)
• Power systems upgrade at the RCMP Public Safety Building ($40,900)
Offsetting the expenses are $675,900 in planned savings, including:
• Modifying the funding sources for the RCMP contract to include prior-year surpluses from vacancies ($400,000)
• Absorbing base inflation increase costs into existing budgets ($164,700)
• Reducing maintenance of sports fields that see low community use ($40,700)
• Reducing the Terry Fox Library’s materials budget ($36,700)
• Reducing the human resources legal budget ($23,800) and development services consulting budget ($10,000)
The final adoption of the budget is expected on April 13.

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