Squamish single-family homeowners can expect to see an additional $204 on their municipal property and utility bills this year.
District of Squamish officials are looking at a 5.34 per cent municipal tax increase compared to 2013. Council started with an increase of more than six per cent on its plate. Since July, officials have whittled out approximately $400,000 — a 3.38 per cent reduction.
Residential properties make up 85 per cent of the community's assessment base, but residential owners assume only 63 per cent of the total tax burden, officials noted.
If the current budget is approved, the owners of the average single-family dwelling can expect a combined property and utility bill jump of approximately $204. Residential strata units roll in at an extra $83.
In an attempt to keep rates competitive, Squamish's light industrial property owners face a 2.23 per cent increase on their municipal taxes — an approximate $126 jump, the district's financial planning manager Christine Matthews noted.
The provincial government has a legislated tax-rate cap on port facilities, she added. As a result, Squamish Terminals will keep a bit more change in its pocket as it may land an almost one per cent drop in municipal taxes.
Down the road, the municipal officials need to ensure they capitalize on federally licensed marijuana grow-ops, Coun. Ron Sander said. While they are popping up on commercial and industrial lands, the facilities are applying for farm status. Farms fall under a lower municipal tax bracket, Sander noted.
“I think we need to have a conversation and deal with this,” he said, adding officials need to take the discussion to the provincial government.
If the district increases farm taxes, it would affect legitimate farming operations, chief financial officer Joanne Greenlees warned, noting the number of working farms in Squamish has jumped from two last year to four this year.
Only the growing portion of a grow-op can carry the farming banner, with the rest of the facility facing industrial tax rates, said Corien Speaker, municipal chief administrative officer. Approximately 25 to 30 per cent of the space required by those facilities is used for the plants, she noted.
“There is one property in Squamish that has applied for farm status,” she said regarding the grow-ups.