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Town budget proposes 5.5 per cent incease to property taxes

The proposed budget includes a 6.5 per cent increase in revenue, an 11 per cent increase in expenses
Smithers Town Hall. (Trevor Hewitt photo)

If approved, the Town’s 2020 budget will include a 6.5 per cent increase in revenue and just over an 11 per cent increase in expenses.

Over the span of three evenings the Town’s Finance Committee presented the proposed budget earlier this month.

Significant user-borne increases to the Town’s revenue stream includes a net 5.5 per cent increase ($352,000) in municipal property taxes and a 8.8 per cent ($368,000) increase in user fees and service charges from their 2019 figures.

Deputy mayor Gladys Atrill told The Interior News the increase to property tax contained some larger expenses, such as the addition of an RCMP member at the Smithers detachment which will cost the Town approximately $140,000 annually.

She said the final numbers will likely look similar to the ones reported on now but council still will be giving them a once-over before approval.

“There were some discussions during the budget meeting where people had said they might want to come back and revisit something so there is still that opportunity.”

The Finance Committee reports to Smithers Town Council, who have the final say in approval of the budget.

As for the increase in user fees, Atrill explained the main reasons behind the increase are twofold.

The first is in direct response to an asset management plan presented to the Town last year which highlighted a number of projected costs to be expected in the areas of water, storm and sewage-related infrastructure over the coming decades.

Atrill said the other part of the increase relates to a concerted effort by the Town to be more conscious of how they plan out the life cycle of future buildings or Town-related operations.

‘We’re just taking that approach that we have to be a little bit more prudent in terms of having some money for when we know things have to be replaced,” she said.

While this has happened in the past for the Town with things like vehicles, Atrill said council is trying to be conscious of the life cycles of new infrastructure as well.

“We’re not there yet but moving to the point, one hopes, where for everything purchased we start planning for it’s replacement immediately.”

READ MORE: Smithers budget 2018

The Regional District will also contribute just over $73,000 more than in 2019, an increase of just over 19 per cent.

Of the total property tax increase there is a “true” increase of 5.39 per cent while 0.22 per cent of the figure represents an increase of $9,540 in 2019 assessment growth.

The largest contributor on the expense side is $19.6 million in capital expenditures. While that number is more than four times larger than the allotted budget for 2021, the Town’s Chief Administrative Officer Alan Harris explained the reason behind this large increase is the number includes $15.8 million allocated towards a proposed Library-Art Gallery renovation and is dependent on whether the project gets the $12.8 million grant it applied for.

He said if you factor out that number the amount is much more comparable to subsequent years’ budgets.

Other significant increases to expenses include a $383,000 increase into development services (+58.5 per cent) and a $380,000 increase into protective services (+13 per cent). A 13.3 per cent increase in Smithers Regional Airport fees also tacked on another $329,000 to the total.

In terms of permissive tax exemptions, 2020 and 2021 will provide $310,000 in municipal taxes and $215,000 to groups which have been approved under the bylaw.

The 2020 budget will be officially approved once council approves this year’s Financial Plan Bylaw. The latest that bylaw can be approved is May 15 of each year.

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