City announces 2.35 per cent tax increase
The City of Merritt announced a 2.35 per cent overall tax increase at a public consultation held April 3 at the Civic Centre.
During the meeting where elected officials and city staff were on hand to answer questions, financial services manager Pat Sibilleau gave an overview of the proposed increase and financial plan and explained that the city plans to increase taxes by about two per cent each year for the next four years.
“This is a reduction from the previous financial plan,” said Sibilleau, adding that the percentage given represents the overall increase for the city and that individual tax increases will depend on assessment rates.
Council is expected to set the mill rate (which will be used to calculate individual taxes) at a regular council meeting tonight (Tuesday).
Even so, Sibilleau explained that a residence assessed at $340,000 in 2011 would have cost $1,654 in taxes, and if the assessment was unchanged in 2012, taxes for the same residence would increase by $38.87 per year, or $3.76 per month.
During her presentation, Sibilleau explained that property tax bills in Merritt include the school tax, the MFA tax, the regional district tax, the hospital tax and the transit tax besides the municipal taxes.
“The City of Merritt is the collector for these, but does not set the rates or retain the funds,” she said.
She also explained that taxpayers should be cautious when comparing municipal tax rates, because taxes break down differently depending on the city or regional district.
Merritt’s financial plan for 2012 to 2016 also plans for increases to the city’s reserves.
“This year we actually put money into reserves rather than pulling from the reserves to keep the tax rate low,” said Mayor Susan Roline. “We’re anticipating projects in the future and I don’t think that’s been done before.”
Roline said the rate of increase in taxes has continued to drop over the last three years.
“When I came to office in 2008 they were projecting eight to nine per cent increases and I knew that we couldn’t live with that,” said Roline.
Only three members of the public attended the budget meeting compared to about 15 elected officials and City staff and three members of the media.
Roline said there are two possible explanations for the disappointing turnout.
“People are comfortable with what we’ve been doing this year, or our voters are even more apathetic,” she said.