Property taxes could go up in Courtenay
Courtenay residents could see a 3.75-per-cent hike in property taxes in 2012, and a 6.66-per-cent hike is possible next year, according to the City's drafted five-year financial plan.
City director of financial services Tillie Manthey presented the drafted plan to council Monday, and noted that she used some of the City's surplus funds to balance the budget this year to help keep the hike to property taxes moderate.
In her report to council, Manthey suggests using surplus funds of $151,600 to assist with increases in policing costs, and another $300,000 to use generally, but added that using surplus is not a sustainable way to balance a budget.
"It's certainly not a sustainable way to balance budgets," said Manthey. "We try not to pull in prior year's surplus but we have used that as a mechanism the last two years, and gradually, as our economy is recovering and revenues are recovering, we are becoming less reliant on that."
Meanwhile, next year's projected property tax increase is 6.66 per cent, according to the drafted plan. However, Manthey noted that this number is an estimate and she was conservative in her predictions around other tax revenues the City expects to receive to help balance next year's budget, which means that number could be lower.
"I'm confident that that number will be less than the 6.7 per cent that's reflected there," Manthey explained. "My new construction tax estimates are fairly conservative... and we have a number of commercial construction projects taking place now that will provide property tax revenues next year."
Manthey expects $600,000 will come from new construction taxes for 2012, but she projected $450,000 for next year's new construction tax revenues in her conservative estimate.
Out of the $600,000 in new tax construction revenue expected to come this year, Manthey set aside $200,000 to use cover a potential decrease in existing commercial tax revenues. The commercial tax multiplier currently sits at 2.9 per cent times the residential rate for all businesses in Courtenay, but the Downtown Courtenay Business Improvement Association has requested a drop in that rate. Manthey noted that issue will likely come before council in mid-April.
As for City expenses, Manthey warned council she expects significant increases in policing costs over the next five years.
"With a new agreement being signed between the federal government and the RCMP and the Province, we will be seeing changes and increases in our bills for RCMP," Manthey explained.
According to the drafted financial plan, Courtenay is expected to pay $5,766,200 toward local policing costs this year, but by 2016, the City's expected to owe $7,335,588 toward these costs, with increments each year between.
The report suggests providing $170,000 to the Sid Williams Theatre Society this year for management of theatre operations, which is $50,000 more than the City gave in 2011.
SWTS underwent significant structural change last year, explained Manthey, adding that this extra funding would help support the staffing restructure.
Kevin Lagan, City director of operational services, noted a road widening project at Lerwick and Ryan Roads is slated for this year, which would cost over $1.1 million. However, the work would benefit the new Thrifty Foods development so the developer would cover about $700,000 of the cost. The City would also install noise fencing near the Uplands Mobile Home Park, with a price tag of close to $240,000.
The East Courtenay Fire Hall and Training Site project was bumped back to 2015 in the draft budget; City CAO Sandy Gray noted that the City is waiting on an announcement about where the new hospital will be located in an effort to coincide the end dates of the two projects.
Coun. Ronna-Rae Leonard pointed out that she didn't see many line items for capital projects in the downtown area, noting the City's recent meeting with the DCBIA and other downtown stake holders regarding potential improvements.
Lagan agreed there is "very little" work slated for the area in this year's proposed budget, and noted there hasn't been any big projects there since about $1 million was spent on the 5th Street rehabilitation project about 10 years ago.
That project "included curbing the sidewalk, landscaping, irrigation, hanging baskets and road repair and that was the last big one, so I can't see that there's anything in here that stares in my face as being a downtown project this year," said Lagan.
Coun. Jon Ambler and Coun. Starr Winchester expressed concern at the absence of traffic light installation at the corner of Lerwick Road and Malahat Drive in this year's budget. Lagan noted signals are slated to be installed at the new Thrifty Foods location this year, and suggested the work at Malahat Drive and Lerwick Road be included in next year's capital plan.
The 2012 to 2016 drafted five-year financial plan is available for public viewing on the City's website at www.courtenay.ca.
The City is looking for public feedback on the plan until April 16, when the final financial plan is expected to come before council. Instructions for providing feedback are on the City's website.