Alberni homeowners facing property tax and utility fee hikes

Alberni homeowners will pay five per cent more in property taxes and 10 per cent more in utility fees if the city’s 2014 budget is approved

Port Alberni homeowners are slated to pay five per cent more in property taxes this year if the city’s 2014 budget is approved, city manager Ken Watson said.

He explained the increase during a presentation of the city’s draft five-year financial plan on Monday, Jan. 13.

The plan calls for residential homeowners to pay 5.3 per cent more in property taxes this year.

According to Watson, the owner of a home valued at $190,000 would pay $89 more in property tax this year at that rate.

The city also plans to increase utilities—water and sewer—by approximately 10 per cent each. For example, a family of four, with average water consumption, might expect to pay $308 per year for water. The average annual cost per household for sewer fees would be $222.

With garbage pickup remaining frozen to 2012 costs, the average annual utility charges, factoring in the increases, would be $628 (or $52 per month).

The utility fee increases are expected to cover $625,000 in water projects and $530,000 in sewer work.

The city expects to fetch $732,000 more this year in property taxes than it did last year with the estimated 5.3 per cent increase, Watson noted.

The increases result from industrial and business tax issues, as well as from borrowing.

Industrial taxes are frozen at 2012 rates until 2017. Business taxes will see a two per cent hike based on BC Assessment growth projections in market sectors.

Three city projects are scheduled to be paid for through borrowing.

The district energy system will cost $10 million; $1.9 million for which has already been received with the balance to be paid for through borrowing.

Water treatment upgrades to meet new VIHA regulations will cost the city $4 million—$2 million from reserve accounts and $2 million through borrowing. The loan payments would cost $146,000 per year, the cost of which is covered by the utility fee increase.

And sewage treatment upgrades will cost $16 million. The city already received an $11 million grant. The $5.75 million balance would have to be borrowed, the loan repayment of which would cost $234,000 per year and would be covered by the increase in utility fees.

Budget pressures are also coming from several high ticket increases including a nine per cent hike in hydro costs; a seven per cent increase in library costs; and a six per cent increase in the RCMP contract.

Several projects will also tap the city’s reserve accounts.

Improvements to Canal Beach will cost $500,000 and will be paid for out of land sale reserve funds.

Facility upgrades to the tune of $662,000 are planned for the fire hall, police station, Bob Dailey Stadium and Harbour Quay. The work will be paid for with $377,000 from operating expenses and $285,000 from grants and reserve funds.

Repairs to the Harbour Quay clock tower will cost $250,000 and will be paid for out of the land sale reserve fund.

The city also plans to replaces various pieces of equipment, which will cost $1 million and be paid for out of the equipment replacement fund.

There is $550,000 earmarked for road construction and $730,000 for drainage work. The amounts fall below the $4 million per year required for sustainable levels, Watson said.

A structural upgrade to the Gertrude Street bridge will cost $250,000, which will be underwritten by the city’s gas tax fund and potential grant money and won’t affect property taxes.

A trail project that will connect Roger Creek trails to existing city trails will cost $100,000 and will be paid for with gas tax and grant money.

Coun. Hira Chopra cautioned about the extent to which the city’s reserve accounts are tapped. “Now is the time to cuts costs,” he said. The reserve accounts “…will be gone in a couple of years.”

The plan can be found at the city’s website http://www.portalberni.ca/files/u4/Five_Year_Plan.pdf A budget summary page is located at the bottom of the document.

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

Twitter.com/AlberniNews

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