Budget 2013: city projects 13 per cent res tax hike

Port Alberni homeowners could pay as much as 13 per cent more in property taxes this year, city manager Ken Watson said.

Port Alberni homeowners could pay as much as 13 per cent more in property taxes this year, city manager Ken Watson said Monday as city council unveiled its draft five-year financial and strategic plans.

About 30 people – most of them city staffers – attended the first special meeting about the budget at the Capitol Theatre on Jan. 21.

Under the plan, homeowners would pay $1,745 in municipal tax for an average home with an assessed value of $189,000. That is up from the $1,535 that they paid in 2012.

Under the increase, homes valued between $150,000 to $200,000 could pay $1,400 in property tax. Homes valued between $200,000 to $250,000 would shell out $1,800.

Approximately $12 million is expected in residential taxes this year, which is up from $10.7 million in 2012.

The increase is necessary to help underwrite a series of initiatives that the city hopes to roll out this year (Please see sidebar). As well, it will help pay for $1.8 million in increased fixed costs, which include a $370,000 RCMP contract, $280,000 in wage increases and $97,000 in benefits, Watson said.

In the business tax category, no increases are slated while $3.2 million in revenue is projected. Maintaining business taxes is consistent with council’s preliminary directive in drafting the city’s five-year financial plan. Port Alberni’s business taxes are higher than the average of 12 cities of similar size, Watson said.

Taxes for major industry are frozen at the 2012 rate as per council’s directive, with $4.8 million in revenue anticipated.

Catalyst won’t see a tax hike for another five years, which was part of the terms of sale involving the city’s purchase of their sewage lagoon, Watson said.

Residents can expect to pay $580 more this year for municipal utility fees.

The city is calling for sewer fees to increase by 50 per cent, or $202. A family of four could also pay 10 per cent more for water, or $280. But garbage pick-up fees are slated to be frozen at 2012 rates of between $83 to $200 per year depending on container size.

The increase in sewer fees is considered an investment, Watson said. It would help underwrite the city’s purchase of the Catalyst sewage treatment facility and lagoon. And it would replenish the sewer utility fund, the current arrangement of which can’t keep up with the work needed, Watson said.

The increases are in keeping with council’s directive to staff to maintain current service levels.

If you want to retain industry then you have to be flexible with its taxes, Coun. Jack McLeman said. “We all want industry in our towns, but if you tax them too much then they’ll go away,” he said.

“But they’ve had their reduction and I don’t think we should reduce anymore.”

Port Alberni sits about mid-pack amid communities trying to keep industries. “It’s like we’re in a competition to reduce taxes to keep them,” McLeman said.

The city is required to adopt an annual property tax bylaw and five-year financial plan before May 15.

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

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