North Cowichan homeowners could face tax hikes of around four per cent this year, the mayor says.
Mayor Jon Lefebure said council is now working with a 3.82-per-cent uplift — about $49 per average home assessed at $337,000.
That levy could swell if council’s proposed one-per-cent climate-action tax happens — though tax rates could also dip once new business assessments are factored, he said of the possible tax yo-yo.
Given all necessary numbers, tax rates for each property class — residential, commercial and industrial — will be determined before Victoria’s May 15 deadline for municipal budgets, explained Lefebure.
“We don’t yet know the final number,” he said.
Home taxes that took an additional $275 tax-shift hit last year amid worries top taxpayer, Crofton pulp mill, would fold. That one-time hike crowned a 3.85-per-cent home-tax lift.
To Lefebure, it all spells long-term tax stability for residents and business owners.
“We hope for a stable, steady tax policy we hope will be less than four per cent, and in the three-per-cent range,” he said.
Complex budgeting started in October, eventually recommending the 3.82-per-cent increase, with no sag in services.
“Council told staff we want to maintain services,” said Lefebure. “We can’t plan for everything we want to, and cut taxes.”
But that became the aim of Coun. John Koury, who recently proposed a two-per-cent home-tax cap.
Administrator Dave Devana said Koury’s cap — hotly debated March 20 — would have sent council back to a big budgetary drawing board.
Koury’s restraints, backed by Coun. Al Siebring, were defeated when Lefebure and four other councillors voted approval of the basic 3.82-per-cent boost.
Koury’s e-mail, and comments to council, urged using municipal reserves and land sales to fund the 1.8-per-cent gap his tax cap.
“North Cowichan has the wherewithal to maintain services and proceed with its aggressive plans for community planning, revitalization and climate action by managing our assets differently,” he said.
Council should withhold reserve building for the next three years in areas where assets bought with reserves “have a long life due to recent purchases, such as garbage and fire trucks,” he added.
But Lefebure explained spending reserves digs a deep hole for taxpayers.
“Suddenly, you’d hit taxpayers with a big increase; you’re just behind next year and have to increase taxes to get back to where you were.”
Koury suggested letting development forces expand the tax base and jobs, while council sells raw, surplus lands — such as Echo Heights’ phase one, Casino Road lands, Highway 18 industrial lands, Sherman Road curling club, and elsewhere.
But Lefebure said land proceeds go into reserves, and sales are “a one-time capital benefit, not for use on operating costs.”