Though property taxes were the hot topic at Council last year and chambers was often full to the brim with residents -- surprisingly less than a half dozen people came out Tuesday night to hear the 2013 - 2017 Capital Budget Review. This was the first of 11 scheduled meetings that will culminate in the adoption of next year's Tax Rate Bylaw on May 1, 2013.
If you have been following North Cowichan's direction the last few years there are no surprises. (unlike last year, when Council faced the Catalyst Pulp Mill in Creditor Protection -- its future viability uncertain) The proposed tax increase presented to Council for 2013 is about 22% lower than projected in the 2012 - 2016 plan that Council endorsed earlier this year -- if passed the proposed budget would see an uplift in North Cowichan residential property taxes of 3.69%.
Whatever the final outcome, some of that money is to be set aside for future capital projects. On the advice of then newly hired CAO Dave Devana (a chartered accountant), Council of the day instituted a progressive policy target that would put aside 15% of property tax revenue for capital projects. What that means is that out of every $ 100 NC collects in property tax, $15 dollars would be saved for future capital projects. Things like road replacement, facility upgrades, sea walks, skateparks, town revitalization etc.
The current Council endorsed that target. Last year we were at 12.7%.
In recognition of the current economic climate and the 2012 tax shift away from heavy industry to homeowners the amount was slightly decreased this year to 12.16% of property tax revenues. However, 15% is still the targeted goal for the future and when realized would put us on very good financial footing going forward.
North Cowichan Council will be debating the proposed net tax increase of 3.69% -- which works out to $ 48 a year or $ 4 a month, per average assessed home of
$ 340,000 -- over the coming months.
At the risk of complicating things even more, the proposed $ 48 increase on the average home is on the North Cowichan portion of your tax bill. (excluding parcel taxes for sewer and water)
North Cowichan also collects taxes on behalf of the CVRD and School District 79. We can't know for sure what their tax requisition requirements will ultimately be, but North Cowichan CAO Dave Devana has suggested he expects those increases could bring the total tax lift to North Cowichan residents living in an average assessed home to around $ 100 a year or $ 8.50 a month. (this includes North Cowichan's $ 48)
North Cowichan's rate increases could be significantly lower if we were growing faster. In spite of lower than average property taxes for comparable homes and services, our growth rate at about 1.25% is low compared to many communities on Vancouver Island.
We believe this is in part because we are somewhat behind on the kind of community development projects that other communities have invested in. Driving through Ladysmith or Qualicum Beach, one can readily see the difference. Revitalization projects such as street beautification, sea walks and walkable town centers have made these communities more attractive to residents, businesses and tourists.
North Cowichan residents have said they want us to invest in community development. This means revitalization projects as well as amenities that attract people, like sea walks, skate parks and the proposed Sherman Road all weather field. The funding for most of these projects comes from a mixture of grants, reserves, fuel tax, development cost charges and contributions from other governments and community groups. Only about 19% of the costs over the next five years would be paid out of any given years property tax revenues.
For instance, a new regional visitors centre is being built at the BC Forest Museum. The total price tag is $ 2,000,000. North Cowichan is contributing $ 325,000 from money we have set aside over time. The CVRD is contributing $ 293,000 and the remaining $1,232,000 comes from grants and the Duncan Chamber of Commerce, who will ultimately run the facility. No new property taxes are involved.
It can be challenging to be sure of what the community wants. We often hear from the folks who are against any kind of tax increase. Yet people usually want the services they have come to rely on, and opposition is swift when those services are cut. Many people who attended last year's open house on the 2012 - 2016 five year plan expressed the desire for investment in revitalizing our town centers to make us more attractive to outside investment.
Check out the meeting schedule and come out or write to give your input.