Property tax increase pegged at 2.25 per cent
The City of Merritt budget deliberations have started, with a tentative 2.25 per cent increase pegged for residential property owners.
The increase represents about $140,000 more from city coffers, which is comparable to last year’s hike. Administration didn’t have information on what the dollar figure would be for each property owner.
The city’s five-year plan has increases in each year pegged at roughly the same amount, but council will have to approve the draft budget before the final number is decided.
“We can’t go any further than that until [council] firms up the budget,” Merritt Financial Services Manager Pat Sibilleau said. “When you look at operating an organization the size that we are, a $140,000 increase doesn’t give you a lot of flex, considering the cost of living increase in the last year.”
The city is also waiting for the B.C. government’s property assessments in April.
“Then, based on the dollars that are determined by the city to operate, we will set the tax rate based on the values of the assessments,” she explained.
If everything goes as planned, tax notices will be mailed in May.
Over the next several weeks, city administration is presenting tentative expenses to council, who have an opportunity to make changes they see fit.
Councillors are in the process of going through each line item to see where cuts can be made or expenses added.
“We set costs based on a level of service we think the community should have,” Merritt’s Chief Administrative Officer Matt Noble said.
He said staff have included items in the budget based on community need.
In addition to money from taxpayers, the province issues grants in June, but the city doesn’t know how much those will be.
“We don’t expect there to be a lot of changes, just slight changes for inflation,” Noble said. “The residential assessment is slightly down and the commercial assessment is slightly down.”
The budget is largely unchanged from the previous year, with additional tourism expenses of about $40,000. The money is dedicated to advertising, economic development advertising, a community tourism opportunities fund and a community tourism fund.
Those accounts weren’t in the budget in previous years.
A full-time finance employee is included in the budget, as well as a part-time summer worker in the bylaw department.
Noble said a few notable initiatives in 2013 include a 28-lot Active Mountain development, and an Armstrong Street development on which construction is expected to start this spring.
The city has also set aside $50,000 to purchase one hectare of land from Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd.
Discussions about several other developments in their early stages are expected to continue in 2013.
Civic Centre upgrades started last week, the city’s leisure services manager Larry Plotnikoff said. An expansion of the Nicola Valley Aquatic Centre and the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena are also expected in 2013.
City administration didn’t have an estimated increase to commercial property owners.
A final increase won’t be decided until March, Sibilleau added.