Squamish Council is working towards a budget that compared to last year will represent a zero per cent increase in municipal taxes but council members saw first-hand that some people will see tax increases.
Based on the draft budget as of Tuesday (April 27) Coun. Corinne Lonsdale is facing a tax increase of 8.62 per cent while Coun. Ray Peters is expecting a 4.52 per cent hike. Mayor Ian Sutherland's home was assessed at $378,000 in 2004 compared to an assessed value of $272,000 in 2003 so his 38.97 per cent increase in assessed value translates to a 2.65 per cent increase in his property taxes. Ultimately, the mayor will pay $41.88 more in property taxes this year than he did last year.
"If my house assessment went up 39.6 per cent and the average assessment increase is 29 per cent then I should be paying more taxes," Sutherland said. "And so I should be because if I sell my house, I'll make more money."
The information on the impact of the draft five-year financial plan was presented to council in a report from the finance department staff at a special meeting of council on Tuesday.
The report presented information for only four members of council. The fourth councillor named in the report was Coun. Sonja Lebans. Her 2004 assessment was $442,000 which represents a 20.44 per cent increase from the 2003 assessed value of $367,000. Lebans will enjoy a 10.55 per cent decrease in her municipal taxes and that means her bill is going to be $221.93 less than last year.
Along with presenting details of the municipal taxes expected from the homes of the four council members, the report gives details of six other single-family homes in the community. Of the other six examples only two are going to see tax increases and each of those will ring in at just under six per cent.
The general tax rate for residential properties will be 3.953556 compared to last year's rate of 5.34657.
The general tax rate represents the amount of money paid for each $1,000 of assessed property value.
The 26 per cent drop in the tax rate was necessary because the overall value of assessed real estate in Squamish went up significantly compared to last year.
Kim Anema, the District of Squamish Chief Administrative Officer, told council that extra measures need to be taken because he expects the district will hear from upset residents with tax bills that are higher than what they paid last year.
"We're going to have to create a special communication plan," Anema said. "We're going to get many calls from people with a tax increase on a zero per cent budget."
Only three residents attended a public meeting on the proposed budget. Two people shared thoughts on the budget. The feedback from the individuals who spoke made no impact on the five-year plan. In response to comments from John Erickson, Mayor Sutherland said staff will be reporting quarterly on how much money came into the district coffers and how much went out.
Council voted at the meeting to move the budget to first and second reading of the budget bylaw next week.
Much of the council discussion at the meeting centred on residential tax rates and little time was spent on other property tax categories.
The tax rate being applied to properties classed as business lands will drop while lands used for recreation and non-profit purposes and light industry will also have lower tax rates.
Late in the Tuesday meeting council agreed to a slight tax shift that will decrease the tax rate for properties falling under the business/other category and increase the original proposed tax rate for the non-profit/recreation category.
"I feel that Squamish should be closing the gap," Coun. Dave Fenn said of the difference in the tax rates for business and residential properties. He feels council should be decreasing the business tax rate to promote the creation of new businesses in Squamish.
Major industry and lands used by utilities will have slight tax rate increases.
Squamish Terminals will pay much less in property taxes this year thanks to a special grant from the provincial government. The district won't lose anything through the lower tax bill for the port facility because the province is covering the difference.