Squamish budget finalized at tax revenue increase of $1.45 million | Squamish Chief

Squamish budget finalized at tax revenue increase of $1.45 million

The town's taxes will make up for 44.72% of its revenue this year; B.C. average is 42.69%

 It's final — the 2020 budget will raise tax revenue by $1.45 million, representing a jump of about 4.9% from the 2019 budget year.

 Council voted unanimously in favour of giving the 2020 Financial Plan three readings on Feb. 18. Adoption is a virtual certainty.

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 Staff have said they expect the District's growth will help partially offset the jump, so the actual tax revenue increase could be about $864,000, or 2.9%, if everything goes as planned.

 Rolland Russell, acting manager of financial planning, said that while the population of Squamish may be dropping, according to the latest population estimate, property assessment values are increasing enough to allow for this offset.

 "We have seen preliminary numbers from BC Assessment," said Russell. "We're comfortable on the basis of those numbers that our original estimate of approx 3% growth will come to fruition in 2020."

 Individual tax rates haven't been decided yet. That decision will come later once the revised BC Assessment numbers are released in April.

 The financial plan presented to council also contains some revised numbers.

 The total revenue for the District is pegged at $71.5 million while the total expenses add up to about $53.9 million.

 These are higher numbers than previously reported, mainly because they account for additional sources of revenue, such as grants, and other expenses, such as amortization to general operations and utilities.

 In this context, amortization generally refers to depreciation.

However, because of accounting classifications, that doesn't include everything. The figure for revenue doesn't include borrowing, which adds up to $13.8 million.

 In the same breath, there's an additional $45.6 million in capital plan spending, among other things, that is not classified as an expense.

 The financial plan shows that Squamish has a slightly higher reliance on taxes than the provincial average.

 This year, Squamish's taxes will make up for 44.72% of its revenue. The B.C. municipal average, measured in 2018, is 42.69%.

 There are a couple of other notable differences.

 Squamish appears to rely more heavily on transfer payments from other governments, which would presumably be the province, the federal government or both. These payments account for 16.91% of the town's revenue, compared with the B.C. average of 7.9%.

 Squamish has a relatively lower amount of developer contributions to its revenue stream.

 That makes up 5.72% of the town's revenue this year, while the B.C. average is 14.27%.

 Russell said this is because much of Squamish's developer contributions are in the form of development cost charges, which are only levied when an infrastructure project goes ahead.

This doesn't necessarily mean the District is getting less money from developers, as there can be a time delay, he said.

Some examples of high-spending projects the District is undertaking this year includes flood protection, or diking projects, which are expected to add up to $6 million this year, and will be $22 million over the initiative's lifetime.

 About $5 million has been allocated for the new Valleycliffe Firehall this year, which will be a $16.7 million multi-year project.

 Roughly $1.04 million will be spent on a childcare facility in Valleycliffe Elementary.

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