Taxpayers in Courtenay might face rate increase of more than four per cent

Courtenay council had its first look at the proposed five-year financial plan Monday.

Courtenay council had its first look at the proposed five-year financial plan Monday — and it includes a proposed municipal property tax revenue increase of over four per cent.

According to a report by City director of financial services Tillie Manthey, the proposed increase is for general municipal and debt purposes, and is driven by two main factors — the increase cost of the new RCMP contract; and debt repayment costs related to borrowing for the Lewis Centre renovation and expansion project and 2012 infrastructure works and paving.

“The (municipal property) taxation revenues proposed are a total (increase) of 4.18 per cent, so it’s really important to note those two main drivers that are impacting this year’s budget, and of that 4.18 per cent, just a little over two per cent (2.06) is specific to the RCMP contract requirement,” Manthey told council.

According to Manthey’s report, the remaining 2.12 per cent of the proposed increase will cover general fund activities and help pay off the debt from the two aforementioned projects.

Although Manthey said she needs to receive the final assessment roll from the BC Assessment Authority before she can calculate official property tax rates, she noted residential property owners will likely see general municipal property tax increases in line with the proposed 4.18-per-cent property tax revenue increase.

“Because the assessments for residential seem have been fairly flat from 2012 to 2013, my thought at this point, is that generally residential property owners would see a four-per-cent increase on that municipal side of the levy,” she explained after the meeting.

She also pointed out general municipal taxes only account for about half of property owners’ tax bills; Courtenay is still waiting to find out what tax requisition amounts for other authorities, like school taxes, the Comox Valley Regional District and the Comox-Strathcona Regional Hospital District, will be.

Manthey noted she drew just over $841,000 from City reserve funds to help keep the municipal property tax revenue increase as low as possible.

However, “even bringing forward and using the $841,000, we’ll keep our prior year surplus at a comfortable level of just under $2 million,” added Manthey, noting the City needs these reserves in case of emergencies.

She also pointed out the City’s total debt repayment cost including principal and interest, and including new borrowing for 2013, are sitting at about 30 per cent of the legislated allowable limit. She noted this is a “comfortable” number to be at, and it’s comparable to other municipalities of similar size.

Council gave the go-ahead to move forward with the proposed financial plan. The 2013 to 2017 Financial Plan Bylaw must be finally adopted by council by May 15.

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