District of Hope council met for over two hours Feb. 23 to go over a draft version of the 2022 budget.
Among the highlights, Mayor Peter Robb and five councillors appear to be moving ahead with a modest 2.63 per cent property tax increase.
The District’s interim director of finance, Harry Osachoff, presented the budget and noted that the average property assessment in Hope rose from $636,000 in 2021 to $880,000 in 2022, a 38 per cent increase.
With the 2.63 per cent hike, someone with a property around the average assessment will pay an extra $34 on their property taxes.
Residential property taxes account for 59 per cent of the District’s general/municipal revenue, which would go up by $326,000 with the increase.
An increase in the residential sewer rate was also discussed.
Other highlights of the draft budget meeting included:
- Council will forego a pay hike in 2022, even though policy allows for an increase equivalent to the consumer price index in Canada. As of July, 2021, Robb’s remuneration was $32,792 while councillors Victor Smith, Heather Stewin, Dusty Smith, Craig Traun and Scott Medlock received $18,582. The District is saving money in the short term with the resignation of Bob Erickson.
- A municipal election costs money and there is $31,000 in the budget, most of it earmarked for a contracted election officer.
- The District has budgeted $8.4 million for an ambitious list of projects that includes the Richmond Hill pathway, new cemetery and dog park fencing and Coquihalla Campground upgrades, among others.
Many projects on this year’s agenda were on the radar in 2021, when the District budgeted $4.5 million, but fires, floods and COVID conspired to delay most of them. The District only spent $171,000 of the budgeted amount, and the surplus is carried forward.
Osachoff said most of the projects will be covered through surplus money, reserve funds and grants, and only $253,000 will come out of 2022 revenues.
- The cost to have the RCMP in Hope has risen. The District will be paying an extra $200,000 on top of the $2 million that the police force cost in 2021. Osachoff explained that the District covers 70 per cent per RCMP member (which includes overhead like car/benefits/administration). In 2021 that amounted to $120,400. In 2022 it’s $133,000.
The District is supposed to have 13 members, but Osachoff said that between illness, absence and unfilled jobs there is almost never a full complement of officers. In 2021 the District was billed for “10 point something” RCMP members.
Mayor Robb noted the District has requested the local RCMP force be boosted to 14, but that is not expected to happen this year.
- Robb and the councillors discussed whether to apply $150,000 in Community Forest revenue to the Richmond Hill pathway project, or distribute it to community groups. They opted for the latter, in particular earmarking $37,500 to the Hope Mountain Centre for trail development.
- The District spent $286,000 during November’s atmospheric river events, and expects to get that money back from the provincial government.
Full video of the Feb. 23 meeting can be found at the District of Hope Ratepayers Association Facebook page at facebook.com/dohratepayers