It looks like taxes are going up in Quesnel, but not by as much as was first anticipated.
Residents were originally looking at a 4.6 percent increase when Council’s Financial Sustainability and Audit Committee took its first swing at the operating budget back in February, but that figure has now been reduced to 2.5 percent.
Director of Finance Kari Bolton, speaking at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, noted that the committee had made some adjustments based on the feedback that it heard.
-Cutting training in 2021 by $50,000 due to the ongoing effects of COVID-19 and limited travel
-Funding the part time bylaw person in the budget with the COVID-19 Safe Restart Grant
-Allocating $260,000 from the projected surplus for 2020 to lower the taxation
Bolton also noted that Council’s approved policy of bringing the light industry tax rate to be equivalent to the business tax rate over three years is also part of this operating budget.
The vote to move forward with a 2.5 percent increase was unanimous, although Councillor Ron Paull did wonder if Council should hold back some of its COVID Restart money for future years.
“My concern is that if in view of how much of our proposed 2021 budget is supported by COVID dollars and if no more COVID dollars are forthcoming, will that impact future budget scenarios, including next year.”
Bolton said that a lot of the COVID money was for one time projects, although she did note that there could be some challenges moving forward.
“Depending on what goes on, if the casinos don’t re-open and we don’t get casino funds we definitely have some challenges on the capital side. And then on the airport side we definitely have some decisions potentially to make in the future, depending on what happens there.”
Mayor Bob Simpson disagreed with Paull, saying that the principle that Council took with the COVID Restart money was that if you never wanted to see any more money-park it.
“We can’t make the case that we need money and then when we get money not use the money, proving that we didn’t need the money, and then hope that we get more money.”
Simpson says Quesnel is in a relatively strong position going forward, unlike some communities.
“Many communities right now are trying to zero out their budgets because of COVID, knowing that in 2022 and beyond they are going to feel the pain in a phenomenal way, and some of them I’m not going to be surprised if they start approaching double digit tax increases just to maintain their services. We are nowhere near that.”
Council still has to pass its tax rate bylaw, and revised assessments won’t be received until later this month, but at this point the average resident can expect a tax increase of $33.43 or $14.57 per $100,000.
The increase for commercial would be $52.87 per $100,000.