Village budget shows good financial management despite pressures: Slocan mayor

·4 min read

Slocan Village taxpayers will see a 3% increase in their property taxes this year – though increases from other levels of government will add to the bill.

Village council passed its 2022 tax rate increase and five-year financial plan at a special meeting on April 26.

“It’s been a challenge,” said Mayor Jessica Lunn. “This year I think the regional taxes are going to put the most pressure on folks, but we’ve done the best we can.”

Besides the 3% property tax increase, water bills will also go up 3%. However, there’ll be no increase to garbage pick-up rates this year.

For the average $300,000 single family dwelling, that works out to $1,388 – about an extra $36 from last year. Of that bill, $736 are property taxes, $517 is water service and $135 is garbage and recycling services.

Mayor Lunn said keeping the increase under the rate of inflation and still being able to initiate projects was a sign of good financial management by staff.

“Our revenue stream – a small percentage of it is our taxes,” she said. “We have very, very limited ability to raise funding through taxation.

“That ability to utilize what we have and leverage it into budgets for projects we wouldn’t otherwise be able to do – I think we just need to give staff a shout-out for doing that.”

Among the budget pressures facing council this year was a reduction in the Small Communities grant from the Province (a $5,000 cut), inflation (now hovering around 6%), and expected increases to short-term borrowing rates.

Number crunching

The Village will collect about $202,000 in property taxes this year, an extra $5,400 from 2021. That’s only about 20% of the Village’s $1.023 million in expected revenues. Most of the rest comes from grants from higher levels of government.

Three percent is not a surprising number – the last five years’ tax bills from the Village have called for a 3% increase (except 2020, when council froze taxes to help deal with the pandemic).

Operational expenses are listed at $873,000. The revenue left over after expenses (about $150,000) is used to pay down debt, fund capital purchases and is put into operational and capital reserves – the municipal equivalent of a savings account.

The capital plan will see $1.417 million in spending next year, with projects like the restoration of the Legion Hall, tennis court revitalization, and affordable housing project slated for completion or commencement.

“It’s important to note, of this $1.4 million, $930,000 of that, about 65%, is being funded for by grants,” said Jury. “So I think this is excellent – the Village’s ability to go out there and find these opportunities.”

The Village is also benefitting from $163,000 in leftover money from provincial COVID recovery support grants.

Taxpayers will shell out $11,500 in interest for the purchase of the old Springer mill lands in 2020. It’s currently paying 1.3% on that $845,000 loan.

Other line items

But the Village’s tax requisition isn’t the only one on the property tax bills, which should be in property owners’ mailboxes by mid-June.

Other levels of government – the regional district, regional hospital and school taxes – are also included on the bill. Largest is the Regional District of Central Kootenay, which will add $604 (a 42% increase from 2021).

“There is a significant increase coming from the regional district,” says Jury. “They have some challenges with fire protection and equipment purchases, the financing of those to ensure they’re up to code, and putting money into reserves to finance future equipment purchases.”

“Those are driven by our underwriters,” noted Mayor Lunn. “It’s not something we can say ‘oh we can wait five years.’ That’s part of the driver, as well.”

Other provincial bodies add to the taxation pile-on. The school tax will add about $395 (an estimated 2% increase), police services will add $58 (also approximated at 2%) and regional hospital $55 (a 25% increase). With some smaller additions, the total bill will be just over $2,500 for that $300,000 property owner. However, the provincial Homeowner Grant will ease the sting of that tax bill by about $770.

Council gave quick passage to the bylaws enacting the financial plan. After expected adoption at the May meeting, the budget will go to the Province for approval.

John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice

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