Commercial tax rate still falling in Courtenay

Courtenay council approved a residential property tax increase of 3.5 per cent at Monday's meeting.
For the average Courtenay home assessed at $281,169, this means $34.31 more in residential property taxes.
Council approved a 3.3-per-cent increase in its overall revenue raised from property taxation. However, they approved a decrease in the commercial rate tax multiplier from 2.9 times the residential rate to 2.85 times the residential rate, which means the residential property tax must increase by 3.5 per cent this year to ensure the City receives 3.3 per cent more in taxes overall.
For the average Courtenay commercial property assessed at $643,326 this means an 8.07-per-cent increase, or $492.27 more.
City director of financial services Tillie Manthey noted Courtenay has been reducing the commercial rate tax multiplier steadily since 2008 and members of the Downtown Courtenay Business Improvement Association have come before council asking for a lower rate over the years.
She also noted council recently approved other fee increases for 2012, including garbage fees by 10 per cent, sewer rates by two per cent, and water rates by two per cent with a continuation of the shift in rate equity — which lowers rates for metered customers including commercial and raises flat rates including single residential. 
"Bear in mind that taxes are one component of the property tax revenue," Manthey told councillors before they made their decision. "So there's more to what the homeowner will receive in terms of a bill than just the property taxes."
In her report to council, Manthey laid out two other options for the commercial tax rate multiplier: to keep it at 2.9 would see residential rates increase by 2.83 per cent and commercial rates increase by 9.25 per cent; to lower the multiplier to 2.8 would mean a residential increase of 4.2 per cent and a commercial increase of 6.88 per cent.
Coun. Ronna-Rae Leonard pointed out the commercial tax rate multiplier was dropped from 3.1 in 2010 to 2.9 last year.
Council passed the change in the tax rate multiplier with Leonard and Coun. Doug Hillian opposed.
In Manthey's March 26 five-year financial plan presentation to council, she estimated the City would need to raise its tax revenues by 3.75 per cent.
However, at Monday's meeting, she noted the Final Assessment Roll for revenue generated from new construction will be $470,000 — the estimated figure she had before was $400,000 — so the extra $70,000 was used to offset the property tax increase existing property owners in Courtenay. That made the City's property tax revenue increase 3.3 per cent.
Coun. Jon Ambler and Coun. Starr Winchester voiced concerns regarding a lack of traffic lights at the Lerwick Road and Malahat Drive intersection at the March 26 meeting. At Monday's meeting, Manthey noted $10,000 was added in for preparatory work to start in 2012 and installation to be completed in 2013.
The funds were removed from the pedestrian signals location to be determined line of the budget.
Council approved the five-year plan recommendations unanimously.
• • •
Property taxes will help pay for 26.4 members of the City's 30.4 RCMP members. The cost of the other four members will come from Gaming Funds and Traffic Fine Revenue.
Council provided final approval of the 2012/13 Municipal Contract Policing Resource, which sees the City paying 90 per cent of the contract cost — almost $4.6 million. Manthey noted the cost in accommodation is expected to rise from $160,000 to 240,000 this year.

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