When Ladysmith council started looking at its 2013 budget, councillors asked Town staff to look up the 2012 property tax rates for Ladysmith in comparison to other municipalities.
Staff did just that, but it is difficult to make direct comparisons from one municipality to another due to differences in the assessment base, as well as the services offered, financial services director Erin Anderson explained in her staff report.
One difference is that Ladysmith operates its own recreational facilities, while that service is delivered by the regional district to many other municipalities, explained Anderson. Ladysmith also operates its own wastewater treatment plant, while many regional districts supply that service for member communities.
Policing is another area where it is difficult to compare. Ladysmith pays 70 per cent of that bill, but smaller municipalities pay a smaller percentage, explained Anderson.
In her report, Anderson compared Ladysmith — with a population of 8,328 at July 1, 2012, according to BC Statistics — with municipalities with populations between 6,000 and 9,000 and the percentage of the total assessment certain classes make up, compared to the total percentage of taxes those classes pay.
“In Ladysmith’s case, Class 1, the residential class, makes up 92 per cent of the assessment base but pays 69 per cent of the tax bill,” explained Anderson. “Qualicum Beach is closer to their class paying the same amount as their assessment.”
In Qualicum Beach, the residential class makes up 95 per cent of the total assessed property value and pays 88 per cent of the total taxes.
The percentage of the total assessed property value varies depending on the other assessment classes in the municipality, explained Anderson, noting that Qualicum Beach is mainly residential; whereas, a municipality like Kitimat has a large major and light industry base, so the residential class makes up only 16 per cent of the total assessed property value.
The average residential assessment value in Ladysmith in 2012 was $303,362.
“Many municipalities who have a similar assessed value do not pay for RCMP costs, and as we’re looking at our financial plan for this year, you know that RCMP costs are facing a substantial increase,” Anderson told council.
Class 6 (Business) makes up about six per cent of the total assessment and pays 15 per cent of the total taxes in Ladysmith. Other municipalities that rely on the business class to pay 15 per cent of their total tax levy include Chase, Cumberland, Houston, Port McNeil, Quesnel, Radium Hot Springs, Sicamous, Silverton and Sooke.
“It’s difficult to compare your average business; there’s some businesses out there that many communities have like a McDonald’s or a Tim Horton’s, but many of the assessments are based on the income they bring in,” said Anderson. “There’s not a typical business that you can use to compare municipalities.”
In Ladysmith, Class 4 (Major Industry) represents about one per cent of the total property assessment and pays 14 per cent of the total tax bill. Prince George and Spallumcheem also rely on their major industry class to pay 14 per cent of the total tax levy.