City of Powell River councilors gave the first three readings of the five-year financial plan and property tax rate bylaw amid concerns expressed by a ratepayer.
At a meeting on April 21, Acting Chief Financial Officer Mallory Denniston provided an overview of the five-year financial plan from 2022 to 2026 and annual property tax rate regulations.
Denniston said the assumptions for the plan were presented in August 2021 at the finance committee meeting and that, based on guidance from that meeting, a preliminary plan was presented in November 2021.
“The main guiding principle was no more than a 4.1% increase in total tax levied; it’s about $800,000,” Denniston said. “Based on the guidelines of this meeting, the first draft of the financial plan was formed and presented in January 2022. Based on the guidelines of the January meeting, the second draft was formed and was presented in March 2022. This plan has now been deferred to This meeting.”
Denniston said in summary that there are no changes to the overall plan and taxes to be levied, and information has been received to complete the property tax settlement.
She said council is required to pass the five-year financial plan annually by by-law before passing the annual property tax by-law, and must establish the municipality’s objectives and policies for the planning period. in terms of funding sources, the allocation of property value taxes among property classes and the use of optional tax exemptions.
Denniston also described a change in the projected budget surplus. She said former CFO Adam Langenmaier originally reported there would be a surplus of around $900,000, but after the March finance committee meeting he determined an error had been found in property tax worksheet.
Denniston said the surplus is actually a $200,000 surplus that will remain with this tax levy.
“We still have $200,000 to discuss where to allocate once we know reserve balances in May,” Denniston added.
Taxpayer Kathryn Hjorleifson, who lives on a fixed income, attended the council meeting and said she conducted an analysis based on the city’s tax calculator. She said the average single-family dwelling in 2022 in the city is valued at $535,928. His is $476,000 and his taxes will increase more than the amount mandated by the board for the total tax increase.
“I don’t agree with the fare increase, but I would like to say something for the future,” Hjorleifson said. “I don’t think it’s fair for the citizens of this city to post something early in the process that tells employees to keep that at 4.1%. What you’re talking about is part of it. You end up at 6.6%.
“When you lead people, you have to lead them through the whole package. We might not have liked the 4.1%, but I thought I was struggling with 4.1%, not 6.6 %.
What Hjorleifson is referring to is that the City of Powell River’s total tax levy increases 4.1% in 2022, but the impact on the average ratepayer of a single family home is a 6.6% increase. %.
“At the end of the day, what we’re looking at is this, and we all know it’s killing us,” Hjorleifson said. “When we take money from citizens, the first rule should be, can it be zero?”
Increases versus reductions
Councilor George Doubt, who chairs the city’s finance committee, said councilors have instructed staff to prepare a 4.1% tax increase.
“I’m confident that’s the minimum tax increase we can have to maintain the services the city has,” Doubt said. “Anything less than that would require cutting services.
Councilor Maggie Hathaway said the only way to keep it at zero is to cut services.
“We actually talked about it at one point several years ago, and we said maybe we could cut some programs at the recreation complex, and you get a huge outcry from people,” Hathaway added. . “So, what can we cut? It becomes very difficult.
Hjorleifson said taxpayers will make all the tough decisions advisers don’t want to make.
“They will make the decision that they won’t have this to eat,” she added. “Or, okay, my kids won’t be going to the recreation complex three times a week, they’re going to go twice. Now, with inflation, we are all being asked to make these decisions. The world has changed and we have to ask ourselves the question: should we do it this way? »
Councilor Cindy Elliott said she was disappointed that there was no budget not exceeding 4.1% for the average household.
“I thought that was what I voted for,” Elliott added. “I believe we had a script with that and I was in favor of that script.”
Council unanimously approved the first three readings of the five-year financial plan and the annual property tax rate by-law. A vote for final adoption will take place in May.