Council approves tax hike

The City of Grand Forks council approves a 3.5 per cent tax increase at the March 13 meeting of council.

Council approves tax hike

City residents will be seeing an increase on their tax bills again after Grand Forks council voted last week to approve a 3.5 percent increase for the 2017 year.

At the regular Committee of the Whole meeting on March 13, council was presented three options for taxes in the upcomingyear and was asked to approve one: a zero per cent increase, a two per cent increase, and a 3.5 per cent increase.

Council had asked for three options during the budget workshop process, as well as comparisons for what those dollar figureswould look like for homeowners seeing rises in their property values. Overall BC Assessment values rose four per cent inGrand Forks this year.

As a result of property value increases, the city saw a tax revenue jump of $162,128 by applying last year’s rates to this year’sassessed values.

Chief Financial Officer Juliette Rhodes presented the three options and what those would add to overall tax revenue; asidefrom the zero per cent increase, an increase of two per cent would bump tax revenue an additional $71, 464 and a 3.5 percent increase would add revenue of $125,062. In those three scenarios, total tax revenue would be $3,573,211; $3,644,675;and $3,698,273 respectively.

As part of the presentation, Rhodes showed council a chart with the impacts of the proposed tax increases combined withassessment value increases on a house valued at $200,000. For instance, on a house with a 7.5 per cent increase in assessedvalue, a 3.5 per cent tax increase would mean an extra $119.84 in taxes this year.

Coun. Julia Butler spoke against any further tax increases.

“Because of the increase in BC Assessment, property value went up and the increase we are already realizing is 4.8 per cent,”she said. “So, because we already seeing an increase, I don’t feel comfortable raising it on top of that. I would go with optionone.”

In response, Coun. Christine Thompson said she was advocating for the third option: a 3.5 per cent increase.

“From a political perspective I understand where you [Butler] are coming from, but financially I have to support a 3.5 per centincrease,” Thompson said. “In my opinion it is not that significant, when you put it down into overall increases. We will getflack, but we have to move forward.”

According to the city’s asset management policy, council agreed not to raise property taxes any more than two per cent plusinflation (generally pegged at 1.5 per cent). Council also agreed to fund asset renewal to 50 per cent; last year, councilreached 44 per cent. Chief Administrative Officer Doug Allin suggested council raise taxes this year to meet that goal.

“We will reach 50 per cent of asset replacement, we’re currently only at 44 per cent,” he said. “The windfall we realize as aresult of the BC Assessment and the property tax rate going up will allow us to meet that. If you hold the line now you won’treach the objective.”

Coun. Colleen Ross put forward a motion to accept a two per cent increase, which was seconded by Butler. Couns. ChrisHammett, Neil Krog, Thompson and Mayor Frank Konrad voted against the motion.

“I think those big jumps are hard for people to swallow, and we are in difficult times. Let’s give people a breather,” Coun. Rosssaid speaking to her motion. “We are giving an increase, a measured approach, and next year we can take a bigger step.”

Several councillors spoke in favour of option three given the relatively small amounts the increase would add to the yearly bill;however, Coun. Butler spoke against that rhetoric.

“I don’t know how you do the money in your houses, but in my house I have to look at things holistically. I have to look at,‘how much did we just increase garbage rates? Utilities, electrical, water sewer,’ it all adds up,” Coun. Butler said. “How muchis the average senior seeing an increase? Not that much. That’s just municipal. It is not just $20, it is $20 plus $20 plus $20.”

Thompson put forward a motion to increase taxes by 3.5 per cent, option three presented to council. The motion passed withButler and Ross voting against.

The financial plan bylaw will be presented for first three readings at the March 27 meeting of council.