January 19, 2016 - 6:00 AM
LAKE COUNTRY – Lake Country mayor James Baker says the reason they’ve decided to charge a flat fee rather than increase taxes this year is because there’s no other way.
The District announced they would charge each property $125 for 2016 and likely the next 19 years, in order to pay for upgrades to their rural roads. Some property owners have spoken out against the flat fee saying it places an unfair burden on lower income households.
Ron Volk has lived in Lake Country his whole life and says the fee allows the local government to gather funds for road upgrades while allowing them to boast about a zero per cent tax increase.
“It is an increase in taxes and to some it’s a lot more (of an increase) than others,” he says. “What they should have done is put our taxes up by (whatever amount they need to raise the money).”
The reason they didn’t do that, Baker says, is because they can’t.
When Lake Country incorporated 20 years ago, a condition of incorporation was that farm taxes would not go above $.52 per $1,000 of assessed value of the land.
“Forty-six per cent of our land base is in agricultural land,” Baker says. "It's the only way we could do it."
Baker estimates they need roughly $30 million to upgrade their rural roads to district standards. That involves adding sidewalks, storm drains and lighting.
“We have a lot of catchting up to do,” he says. “Because we inherited rural standard roads when we incorporated… we have to do a lot of upgrades. It will take increased taxes for the next 20 years.”
Baker says the flat fee will bring roughly $600,000 in 2016 and they plan to increase property taxes next year to approximately two per cent to raise another $600,000. The rest, he hopes, will come from government grants. The $125 fee, he says, will be applied every year until 2026, but will not increase.
“It could actually go down if assessments go up,” he says.
Baker acknowledges that a flat fee does mean a proportionately higher burden for some, but says it will be offset by relatively lower property taxes.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016