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Comox council divided over infrastructure tax vote

Mayor and councillors broke out in laughter after tiebreaker from Coun. Ken Grant
The Comox town hall. (Black press files)

A tense council vote was settled by a last-minute tiebreaker in Comox on Wednesday.

In the frigid air of a divided council, Coun. Ken Grant flicked his wrist a few times, turned to a neighbour, and then raised his hand to push the vote across the line at 4-3. The vote meant households would pay less upfront for an infrastructure tax, however an additional $6 million in interest would be charged to the Town of Comox.

It’s a decision that will be revisited each year going forward. The ability to renegotiate next year didn’t stop council from debating on Wednesday.

“I hate paying interest,” said Coun. Jonathan Kerr. “I hate paying it personally, and I hate paying it with taxpayer dollars.”

Kerr advocated to bite the bullet. The Town of Comox should avoid all interest payments by paying the fee right away, he said.

“It is a one-time pain. But it is a long-term gain for all of our taxpayers.”

The Town of Comox needs to pay for infrastructure renewals. A new tax is needed to fund the project — and council was deciding the best way to levy that tax on households.

Spreading the cost over time would mean paying more money at the end of the day. But it would also make the upfront payments cheaper, taking pressure off Canadians in this time while cost of living is high.

If council sided with Kerr in his call for an immediate complete payoff, households would pay a one time tax of roughly $370. It would save each household roughly $150 over ten years — or about $11 million in interest fees for the town altogether.

Mayor Nicole Minions did not see the issue the same way. She thought the upfront cost would be too high during financial difficulties today in Canada. She pushed for the option that would shrink the upfront fee to households, but bring more interest charges into the future.

“Right now people are in an affordability crisis,” said Minions. “A 10-year (timeline) feels like it’s still absolutely responsible.”

The upfront fee would instead be roughly $51 — but every year for ten years. In total, the new tax would amount to roughly $517 for each household.

“It’s low risk. And it leaves the door open for us to look at this in a year. When, potentially, people’s housing costs could be significantly less.”

Council’s vote of 4-3 sided with Minions for a 10-year tax levy.

Some households will face higher and lower fees based on their property value. Properties above the average — which was roughly $789,000 in 2024 — would see a higher charge, whereas houses below the average would see a lower charge.

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