Council reviewed the proposed 2015-2019 municipal property tax rate at the Feb. 17 budget meeting. The municipal tax rate will be increasing each year, though it will be by a smaller margin than was previously planned under the former council.
Charlotte Osborne, director of Finance and Computer Services, said they have come up with an estimated 3.24 per cent increase for 2015, which includes a one per cent road dedicated tax.
“Then in 2016 we’re looking at 4.63; 2017, 4.96; 2018, 4.19; 2019, 2.41,” Osborne said. “All of those increases include your road dedicated tax.”
Mayor Lee Pratt said the previous budget projections from last year put the increase at 5.77 per cent for 2015.
Osborne said that was correct, city staff began with a figure of 5.77 per cent and reduced it to 3.24 per cent.
“Personally I think you’ve done a great job,” Pratt told Osborne. “Thank you for that. The way I see it, we’ve reduced the taxes, we haven’t reduced the services we’re providing and we’ve put a few things in place as far as road improvement goals.”
Osborne said the amount they can bring down the tax rate depends largely on the projects for the year.
“For example one of the efforts we looked at this year was bringing down the full five years,” she said. “So bringing down the 2015, focusing on current year, that’s always the focus, but levelling out the other four. 2019 — the fifth year — is so far out that will change.”
Pratt noted that the previous three years taxes increased 12.09 per cent, about a four per cent per year average.
Coun. Wesly Graham said compared to what they started with after the election for the five year projection of tax increases, he saw this as a more balanced approach. “Yeah there’s a bit of increase, but it’s not growing exponentially,” Graham said.
Coun. Tom Shypitka was also optimistic.
“Anytime you can reduce the budget and save the taxpayers some dollars and hopefully give them some more bang for their buck… that’s just a win for everybody and I want to thank staff. That’s awesome,” Shypitka said.
Coun. Ron Popoff said that as Cranbrook grows and more economic development occurs, it should offset the property tax and business tax rates.
Osborne noted that the non-market change has a big impact on the tax rates.
“The better the non-market change — that means new construction — the more new construction we have the more we’re able to continue to provide the same services or improve services — implement new initiatives if that’s council’s wish —and keep taxes low.”
BC Assessment provides the city with the non-market change. The final version is not in yet.
Osborne also noted that the municipal tax rate changes are about a $70 change for a house valued at $300,000, for 2015. That amounts to a projected tax rate increase from $2,205 in 2014, to $2,271 in 2015. That figure doesn’t include the frontage tax, school taxes or utility fees.