Hope proposes 2.2 per cent tax hike

District aims to keep tax increases low while addressing operations and capital project demands

Hope residents can expect a 2.2 per cent municipal tax increase this year if the proposed 2014 budget is approved.

More than 35 residents packed into council chambers last Wednesday to get their first look at the draft 2014-2018 financial plan. The district’s property tax revenue would increase $153,000 this year to $7.1 million, contributing to an overall operating revenue of $10 million.

“This (general increase) is in line with many other jurisdictions who are also trying to keep tax increases checked while addressing operations and capital project demands,” said chief administrative officer John Fortoloczky. “What this means is a slight increase to the average homeowner/business owner. However, it’s difficult to say exactly how much more they will be paying as it all depends on changes to the assessed value of their property/businesses for 2014 as determined by the BC Assessment Authority.”

The district not only faced rising costs for operations this year, but inflation to approved capital projects and wage increases mandated by the collective agreement. Addressing aging infrastructure needs in the community, such as repairs to roads and sidewalks, is also an ongoing challenge.

“This infrastructure deficit challenge is a well-known issue and common to all municipalities,” said Fortoloczky.

“It affects smaller municipalities like ours harder than larger more dense municipalities who have greater potential to raise revenues and buffer rate increases.”

In order to balance the proposed budget this year, the district made cutbacks in landfill operations and reduced the size of the public works staff by one. Fortoloczky said staff also went through a line-by-line review of department operational budgets and “took some risk in areas we thought were acceptable through incremental cuts.”

For 2014, overall operating expenses are projected to be $9.9 million with capital costs totalling $2.4 million. Fortoloczky said operating expenditures include $1.1 million in an amortization expense which will go towards capital funding. The remaining amount will come from prior years’ budget surplus and respective reserves. For example, $100,000 from the fire services reserves will go towards funding repairs to Fire Hall No. 1, which houses a key water system pumping station.

Other proposed capital project priorities for 2014 include recreation centre equipment replacement (HVAC and water system have already been approved), bridge rehabilitation program, major pavement replacement, Johnson Road ditch and road repair, bank stabilization and road repair on Othello Road, and pollution control centre outfall pipe relocation due to the flooding in 2012/2013.

A committee of the whole meeting open to the public will be held on March 24 at 6 p.m. to discuss the proposed 2014-2018 financial plan.