July 04, 2014 - 3:23 PM
KAMLOOPS — One of the councillors who spoke out against spending $45,000 on a temporary tax office says the pilot project was a 'failed experiment' after only about 2,600 people used the alternative office.
About a quarter of city property owners still pay in person instead of online but only seven per cent of property owners chose to pay at the temporary location at McArthur Island this year.
City Taxation Manager Parissa Bhullar says 8,707 property owners paid in person this year, down 329 from last year. Only about 30 per cent of those paid at the North Shore location. That works out to just over $17 per person. Coun. Tina Lange would like to see a user pay system put in place for those who still want to pay in person.
"If we look at this, it was a failure. It's an awfully large expenditure for the results we got. To spend $45,000 on a project that is temporary and serves only about 100 people per day... that’s expensive," she says. "I would like to see the finance deptartment look at the possibility of putting a small premium on paying in person to encourage people to pay online, at the bank or by mail."
In May, city councillors approved the temporary location as an alternative because of construction taking place right outside of City Hall. Staff made the proposal as a way to overcome safety and accessibility concerns to do with the 1 Avenue and Lorne Street realignment project.
Other council members simply wanted to give North Shore homeowners an easier, better option to pay their taxes, as well as options for people who prefer the old-fashioned approach to paying bills.
While the city wants fewer people paying in person, in the end all but Lange and Coun. Ken Christian voted for the temporary location. They will re-assess the move after tax season.
“I suspect more people are paying online,” Bhullar speculates of the drop in people paying in person. “But there will be a report at the end of the process.”
This year, 34,959 tax bills were sent out and the revenue from taxes is expected to exceed $93 million.
While residential taxes make up 60 per cent of revenue, ‘business and other’ accounts for just over 28 per cent while recreation, non-profit, light industrial, major industry and farm account for less than 10 per cent. The remainder comes in from utility billing.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014