Dawson City raises taxes in response to the town's $800K deficit
Residents living within city limits of Dawson City, Yukon, woke up Thursday with higher taxes on some of the services they rely on.
During a council meeting on Wednesday evening, council passed the vote on the 2023 Budget, Fees and Charges, and Tax Levy Bylaws.
Increases that residents are going to see are:
A roughly 5 per cent increase in residential and non-residential property taxes.
A roughly 6.5 per cent increase in fees for recreation (e.g. pool and arena fees, fitness passes).
A 25 per cent increase in hotel/B&B room rate water and sewer charges.
A 6.5 per cent increase in other water and sewer fees and charges, including water delivery.
A higher minimum tax rate for stand-alone vacant residential lots within the historic town site.
Cancellations of special Vacant Waste Management Fees for vacant residential and non-residential lots (now all lots, whether vacant or not, are proposed to have the same applicable fee).
A 25 per cent reduction in the seniors grants for taxes and water and sewer fees, and raising of the age of eligibility to 61 from 60.
A cost of service increase of 20 per cent in all cable TV charges.
The tax increases come as the town is struggling with a nearly $800,000 deficit.
Coun. Julia Spriggs explained the reasoning for the tax hikes to members of the public attending in person and online.
"The reality is in the financial environment we're in, we need to increase revenue and we need to decrease expenses," she said. "I believe we did our best to balance what we could with the tools we have at our disposal at this time."
Coun. Alexander Sommerville also weighed in on the decision.
"As painful as this budget is," he said. "It has a $200,000 buffer built in, cash brought forward from previous years, that we cannot rely on again. To use the phrase again, as painful as this budget is we are clearly staring down a more painful budget year next year with the need to raise an additional $200,000 before we contend with the rising cost of delivering services."
Sommerville said there are also facilities around town that are costing more than they're bringing in — such as the seasonal swimming pool — that need to be addressed.
"You know if I pick on the pool, begging your pardon," he said. "It's because I see so much more community [activity] at the arena in terms of the sports leagues that organize much of the activities there that I don't see at the pool, so I do find it an easier target in terms of you know when we talk about the difficult decision of closing the facility."
Residents not happy
A handful of residents showed up to the meeting to show their lack of support for the tax increase.
Resident Jackie Olson was the first to share her concerns.
"This vacant bylaw is going to impact the seniors who are lifetime residents," she said. "Who have invested in this community and have kept it going.
"You're increasing their water and sewer. You're increasing their waste.You're increasing their taxes. And then you want to cut their benefits. And now you want to grab their land that they have their greenhouse or garage on?"
Dawson City mayor Bill Kendrick addressed Olson's comment.
"OK, first off," Kendrick said. "The greenhouses and the garages, those are amalgamated lots. Those are not covered in this policy."
Kendriick described the lots that would be taxed under the new policy.
"The only thing this policy is dealing with this year is stand-alone standard residential lots in the historic town site. You know there's a lot up on Sixth Avenue there's no greenhouse on it. There's no house. It's a plain lot with no improvements on it."
Tao Henderson also voiced his disdain with the tax increases.
"I'm pissed about the whole situation," he said.
Henderson lives in the Dredge Pond subdivision a few kilometres from Dawson's downtown core.
His concern was being taxed for water and sewer services he doesn't receive. Henderson hauls his own water from town and is not connected to a sewer, or septic field.
Kendrick assured him and other residents in his situation that the water and sewer tax increase would not have an impact on them. He did however say that the water delivery fees and waste management charges would still apply if they use that service.
Kendrick said the main tax that would impact residents of Dredge Pond is the mill rate property tax.
Still, residents who were in attendance left saying the felt like they weren't heard by mayor and council. They said they wished they had the opportunity to share their concerns before council passed the bylaws ... not afterwards.