Dramatic rise in taxation proposed for next regional district budget

For those looking for a little relief from the regional district over inflation and rising costs, think again, the municipal body is proposing up to a 12 per cent increase in taxes for this year.

In a special meeting of the board of directors at the Regional District of Central Kootenay boardroom on Friday, Feb. 17, the newest version of the financial plan was brought to light.

A draft of the 2023-2027 Financial Plan has the latest projection of an 11 to 12 per cent average increase in taxes for all RDCK residents — including residents of Nelson and Castlegar.

The projection is considered “highly variable” depending on the area or municipality in question, with a range across the areas from about a five per cent increase to an astounding 24 per cent increase.

“Inflation and supply chain issues will continue to be a challenge in all services in 2023,” said Yev Malloff, RDCK chief financial officer, in a press release.

Malloff noted that over the last three years prices on most goods and services that the RDCK purchases have significantly increased, prompting part of the taxation bump.

Part of the driving costs is a 4.4 per cent salary increase for regional district staff, and the addition of several new staff members, adding more salaries to the total RDCK payroll.

“Last week, the board approved several new staff positions for 2023 to bolster areas where we are most at risk of negative impacts to service delivery as current staff are unreasonably stretched,” said Malloff. “Several of the new positions come with the provision that the wage costs be covered by increases in user/permit fees, rather than taxation.”

In addition, short-term borrowing costs have risen for the regional district with up to a four per cent increase in annual interest rates.

Biting the bullet

Other regional district areas are receiving new facilities and services, accounting for the unprecedented rise in taxation.

The Castlegar and District Community Complex arena floor repair, estimated at $1.5 million, is the impetus behind a large increase in taxation in Castlegar and the surrounding areas.

As well, increases in fire protection service costs are also contributing to some of the more substantial increases, with “shifts” in assessment accounting for the taxation change in other areas.

“Asset management will have an increased focus across most services,” noted Malloff. “This will increase costs in the short term, but will pay dividends with improved financial planning, asset availability and service delivery over the mid to long term.”

Have your say

But the financial plan is not a done deal. Public budget consultation meetings will take place across the regional district — including the municipalities of Nelson and Castlegar — over the next three weeks in which people can provide input into the financial plan.

The meetings will follow a hybrid model — which the regional district currently uses for its board of directors meetings — with in person or online offerings. Meetings in New Denver, Silverton, Slocan and Area H, however, will be online only.

“This is your opportunity to connect with RDCK directors and staff, ask questions, find out about projects and initiatives happening in your area, and provide feedback,” noted a press release from the regional district.

Follow the link for the complete meeting schedule.

Timothy Schafer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Nelson Daily