Taxpayers in Quesnel can expect a 5.5 percent tax increase this year.
The 2020 tax rates bylaw was approved at Tuesday night’s meeting.
Director of Finance Kari Bolton explained what that meant in terms of dollars and cents…
“The average residence in Quesnel, valued at $221,283, will see an increase of $70.84 in the municipal tax portion of their property tax invoice or $32.01 per 100 thousand of assessment. A commercial business will see an increase of $116.04 per 100 thousand of assessment, which will be offset significantly by the reduction in the school tax provided by the province.”
Inflation made up a large portion of the increase along with the addition of RCMP and Bylaw officers, and a new snow reserve to offset expensive snow removal years that have become more and more common.
Mayor Bob Simpson, also the Chair of the Finance Committee, noted that the increase could have been higher…
“We were able to mitigate the loss of 400 thousand dollars from Tolko starting this year, so that is a direct hit, about a 2 1/2 percent tax increase if we wanted to cover it all in one year. We were able to mitigate that because we had a tax stabilization account, and we’re using that to moderate that hit over the next three years, but we’ll be drawing that account down.”
Only Councillor Ron Paull was opposed to the tax increase…
“My opinion is that we are not going far enough to reduce this year’s tax increase of 5 and a half percent. I am not suggesting for a minute that we hit the reset button, only the pause button. I am simply saying that by pausing say 400 to 500 thousand in taxation, and I would lean more to probably pausing 400 to 500 from capital, we could cut our tax increase roughly in half.”
When challenged by the Mayor to say which projects he would delay, Paull suggested that staff come back with some suggestions.
Other Councillors were also concerned with the increase, including Mitch Vik.
“I feel that there are two factors that can mitigate some of my fear. As Director Bolton has indicated if further adjustments are required there is nothing stopping us from pivoting and adjusting if things go sideways. The second item is the modification of the tax stabilization account. In the last few hours I have been very encouraged that this stabilization account can serve a very valuable purpose, not only meeting it’s objective which is to stabilize in the event of a major tax shortfall, but offering some measures to support individuals and businesses in the event that that support would be required.”
Councillor Laurey-Anne Roodenburg expressed concern for not-for-profits who won’t be qualifying for gaming grants this year.
Councillor Tony Goulet wanted to know what the provincial and federal governments were doing to help municipalities, noting that they have announced funding for others, and at some point they too should get some help.
Mayor Simpson noted that the city had cut some costs to make up for its lost revenue due to COVID.
On the issue of tax relief, something that other communities are doing, Simpson said that the Finance Committee felt it would be better to put money into a community stabilization account, rather than give tax relief across the board, because not all businesses and/or residents were being negatively impacted by the pandemic.
He says this way they could strategically figure out who really needed the help.