Another tax hike on horizon

Without any supplemental items in the 2014 budget yet Kamloops homeowners are already looking at a 1.99 per cent increase in property taxes over 2013.

KAMLOOPS – Kamloops homeowners are already looking at a nearly $48 hike per year to cover property tax and sewer utility increases and negotiations over what will be added or cut in the supplemental budget aren't over yet.

The provisional budget was presented to council Tuesday with the hopes of finalizing the provisional tax rate and final utility rates for next year. Heading into the meeting staff outlined an estimated 1.99 per cent increase to the General Fund, a five per cent increase for the Sewer Utility Fund and no increase to the Water and Solid Waste Utility Funds for 2014.

A large portion of the increase, $1.445 million, is being attributed to the wage and benefit increases for unionized employees, firefighters and city management. Staff has continued to find efficiencies to cut back costs but a drop in interest revenue funding and transit revenues and increases in utility rates and contract salaries have the city staring at a tax increase even before projects or staff are added to the budget. These changes will leave the average homeowner with a property tax bill about $35 higher.

Budgetary requirements will also result in another sanitary sewer rate increase, which has been happening each year for the past several in order to lessen the blow of paying for the new sewer treatment plant. Personnel and material increases for plant operation are estimated to increase over $1.3 million next year. The city decided to implement a stepped to plan instead of a sudden 30 per cent increase in 2014. The proposed five per cent increase will cost the average household nearly $13 annually.

Questions over the heavy industry tax rate loomed again and Mayor Peter Milobar let the rest of council know the committee is currently focused on the potential boundary expansion of the city to include New Gold, which would help bring the the rate more in line with the provincial average while appeasing the rest of the heavy industry players in the city, though not for a couple of years. Those tax rates will be dealt with in the new year after the supplemental budget is discussed and the final tax rates are set for all classes.

Overall council said they find the provisional budget favourable, palatable and not too scary. They will make a final decision on the five year plan and utility rates at the Dec. 10 meeting and in February the supplemental budget items will be brought forward to council and at a public roundtable session. In April the final budget numbers will be discussed and voted on.

To contact a reporter for this story, email, call (250)819-3723 or tweet @JennStahn.

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