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Cumberland takes next steps on tax hike

Average home estimated to go up $269; median business up by $471
The Village of Cumberland takes its next steps on budget. Record file photo

The Village of Cumberland is expecting hikes to utility rates and frontage taxes, along with regular municipal taxes for the next year.

Council met in an informal village hall meeting on Nov. 16 to discuss the five-year financial plan in more detail and what it could mean for the coming year.

At present, the village is banking on an estimated 4.93 tax increase for 2021, which was up for discussion at committee of the whole meetings in late October. This is all preliminary, and the budget is the subject of further discussion and first bylaw reading at the regular Nov. 23 meeting of council.

At the Nov. 16 meeting, chief financial officer Michelle Mason told council the residential portion of the tax roll accounts for about 76 per cent of the tax roll, which could be offset in the future by additional industrial or commercial properties.

“This is where development can diversify this tax distribution,” she said. “That would take some of the burden away from residential properties.”

The tax hike is preliminary at this point, as the budget does not yet include amounts for taxes collected on behalf of other authorities such as the school district and the regional district. The budget at present is using an estimated amount of five per cent for these.

Once utility fees, frontage taxes and a new parcel charge for the water supply debt for the coming year are taken into account, the estimated overall increase is expected to be about eight per cent for an average household, or about $269.

Businesses can expect an estimated increase, including utility fees, frontage tax and the new parcel charge, of about six per cent, which would work out to about $471 for a median business. Staff use a median assessment number as opposed to an average assessment because there is a much greater range of property values across the business class.

“You couldn’t possibly use an average assessment,” Mason said.

The municipal tax portion is based on an assumption the village will get an additional $80,000 in growth taxes. Responding to a question from the public about what happens if the growth taxes fall short of expectations, Mason said there is financial stabilization reserve funding available. If the village ends up with more, the excess is put into these reserves.

The village also has to wait until the new year for the annual assessment rates for properties, which are then used to determine the rates for different property classes. As to whether individual property taxes go up often depends on how different the change in a place’s property value is compared with the average for the community.

“All property assessments do not change equally across all properties,” Mason said. “Market pressures and property improvements will result in different assessment changes for different property owners.”

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She also spoke about some of the capital work in the near future. The largest portion, at about 91 per cent, will cover work on the community’s new wastewater treatment plant. After this comes the regular “linear infrastructure” assets, such as road work, water or sewer lines, with many roads in particular need of work.

“We have a bit of catch-up,” she said.

At the outset of the meeting, Mayor Leslie Baird said council has been discussing the financial plan in recent weeks, but the process begins with senior staff much earlier as they set priorities and look for funding grant opportunities.

“The whole entire process takes about six months,” she said.

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