The average homeowner in Hope can expect to pay an additional $120 this year.
Council passed the first three readings of the 2012 budget bylaw on April 10, along with the five-year financial and capital plans.
The $120 includes an increase of 8.6 per cent in property taxes and 15 per cent for protective services. Parissa Aujla, Hope’s director of finance, said taxes in the district will still be lower than in neighboring jurisdictions.
“This is a tight and very lean budget,” she said. “There have been approximately 10 years where there’s been no increases and that’s hard for the economy. Looking at the needs and challenges of this community, it is just a question of what is the best way to afford what it is the community wants to achieve.”
An ongoing challenge for Hope is generating enough revenue to cover operating expenses, especially with the declining population impacting the municipal tax base. The district will collect $6.3 million from property owners this year, which will contribute to an overall operating revenue of $10.6 million. Expenses in 2012 are expected to total $11.1 million, up $410,600 from 2011. Aujla said one of the contributing factors to that increase is rising water and sewer rates, which are projected to cost $1.3 million this year.
“Our rates are not keeping pace with some of our neighbouring jurisdictions,” said Aujla. “So I think we’re just playing catchup. It’s not to say that this trend will forever continue. It’s a matter of getting it to ensure that the revenues offset the cost of doing business.”
In order to balance the budget this year, the district added tax revenues, increased sales/service fees, reduced casual/back-filling of positions, and made cuts to several operating and capital expenditures. It also reduced transfers to reserves, which Aujla said will impact the replacement of capital items and the amount of money required for post-closure of the landfill.
However, despite the cutbacks several projects are anticipated to move forward this year. They include the replacement of Suckers Creek Bridge, completion of phase one of the east Kawkawa Lake water upgrade, Flood-Hope sewer system, and recreation upgrades at Sixth Avenue Park.
Final adoption of the 2012 budget is slated for council’s April 24 meeting.