Ladysmith council keeping residential tax increase below five per cent

As it stands right now, the average homeowner in Ladysmith will pay an additional $62.71 in municipal tax.

It’s two weeks before the Town of Ladysmith’s financial plan and tax rate bylaws must be adopted, and as it stands right now, the average homeowner will pay an additional $62.71 in municipal tax.

Ladysmith council looked over the town’s 2012-16 Financial Plan last Monday.

“This is the same financial plan that was presented to council last year, with the exception that 2012 has more specifics,” explained city manager Ruth Malli. “This is the best information we have at this time, taking into consideration all the capital projects that are planned. That’s a really big-picture view.”

The overall property tax impact across all taxation classes in Ladysmith is a 2.58-per-cent increase. Town staff were instructed to keep the residential increase below five per cent, and it has come in at 4.58 per cent. Commercial taxes are increasing two per cent, and there is no increase to industrial tax.

In 2011, the average assessment for a single-family home in Ladysmith was $303,000. In 2012, reflecting a market adjustment, the average assessment is $296,607. That’s a two-per-cent drop in assessments.

For the average home in 2011, the municipal tax levy was $1,260.96. In 2012, the average home tax levy will be $1,323.67, which is an additional $62.71.

“Seventeen cents per day is the change to the average home,” said Malli.

The town also collects taxes on behalf of other agencies, such as the Cowichan Valley Regional District [CVRD].

“These will be on the tax bill, but we have no control over them,” said Malli. “So when the taxpayer says the tax increase is different for their particular home, generally it’s a result of other taxing agencies that increase their taxes.”

The town did not know the school tax yet, but the total requisition for the Municipal Finance Authority went up $1 from $255 in 2011 to $256 in 2012, and BC Assessment dropped $2,557, going from $86,314 in 2011 to $83,756 in 2012. The CVRD’s total requisition increased from $681,104 in 2011 to $728,771 in 2012. The largest increase in total requisition comes from the Cowichan Valley Regional Hospital, which is rising from $370,862 to $450,665 to save money for a new hospital, noted Mayor Rob Hutchins, adding this increase works out to about $20 per household.

For 2012, there is no change in the water parcel tax, as it stays at $100. The sewer parcel tax is increasing $115 from $154 in 2011 to $269 in 2012 to accommodate upgrades from primary treatment to secondary treatment.

When asked how Ladysmith has approached its budgeting, Hutchins noted that, compared to federal and provincial governments that need to take major steps to address operating debt, municipal governments are not allowed to accumulate operating debt.

“Provincial governments across Canada are faced with how do they deal with these massive operating debts … so they’ve had to take some significant steps to deal with that debt,” he said. “Local government has never been allowed to accumulate operating debt, so in our budget deliberations, we do service requests, expansion of operations because of increased population, and in some cases, downloading from the provincial and federal government, such as RCMP costs.”

Looking at the 2011 tax levels, of the 36 municipalities on Vancouver Island, Ladysmith was below average, explained Hutchins.

“Of the 16 below us, three of those — Campbell River, Port Alberni and North Cowichan — have had to face significant rate shifts so they will probably be above us,” he said. “The vast majority of other communities don’t have to pay for policing, and we pay for policing. I believe none of those communities  have swimming pools. If you take a look at the comparative rates, I think we have done quite well because we are below average, and yet we have two significant costs that most communities below us don’t have, which is policing and an operational pool. The most expensive recreational facility to operate is a swimming pool.”

Hutchins pointed out that North Cowichan is facing the largest single tax shift in the area, at $275.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business’s BC Municipal Spending Watch ranks overall operating and spending per capita, as well as operating and spending per capita based on growth, and Ladysmith is ranked 131st out of 153, with 153 being the best, added Malli.