Ladymith’s mayor is pointing to the rising cost of goods and services after the town approved a 2019 budget that includes a homeowner tax increase of 3.4 percent.
As goods and services become more expensive in B.C., costs for the municipalities are also on the rise. These costs include the rising price of gas, and the rising cost of electricity. For example, the cost to keep power on for the Frank Jameson Community Centre is far greater than the average single family home.
“As those costs grow for the regular person, they also grow for your local government,” Mayor Aaron Stone said. “You have to absorb those costs somehow, and one [method] is obviously, if costs go up, you increase taxes. The taxes increases are directly relevant to the increase in costs.”
“There’s huge growth in costs. Capital project costs have probably gone up 30 per cent in the past five years, so when you’re looking at waste water treatment plants, or water treatment plants — two big projects we’re taking down off the long list — those are huge investments, and every year the costs keep going up,” Stone said.
While the costs are increasing, Stone said Ladysmith has developed a reputation for fiscal prudence, and has found success in getting grants from the provincial and federal governments to fund capital projects in the community. The town was awarded a $9 million grant, one of the largest awarded in that round of grants, to fund the water treatment plant. The total cost of the project is estimated to be $15 million.
“If you look at the five-year financial plan, you’ll see all those costs are built in,” Stone said. “Keeping in mind that as an accountant you don’t budget for grants you haven’t received yet, so you always budget as if these projects go forward without any grant funding, but that’s not the reality. The reality is that our community, our staff, and our elected officials have been really good and lobbying senior levels of government.”
There are also plans to move forward with the Waterfront Area Plan, improve the water main on Baden Powell, replace the Rocky Creek culvert on 4th Ave, add emergency backup generators for the public works building, as well as renovations and safety upgrades at the Machine Shop.
An important element of municipal costs are the costs of employment. According to the town’s January budget presentation, employment costs are projected to be 42 percent of the town’s operational expenses in 2019. As part of regulations around the new water treatment facility, the town must hire a certified utilities operator. The town has also added a position for a building inspector/technician to help speed up the process of reviewing applications from developers so projects can move forward.
The residential municipal tax rate will be based on the value of property as determined by B.C. assessment. Ladysmith’s total municipal taxation for 2019 is $8.4 million. That money will go toward maintaining parks, roads, and other infrastructure like the new water filtration plant, running the Frank Jameson Community Centre, and supporting the grants-in-aid program for local community organizations.
Municipal tax rates are only a portion of the overall taxes Ladysmith residents pay. According to the Town of Ladysmith’s website, municipal taxes make up 37 per cent of the bill while 41 per cent of the tax bill is set by other agencies like schools, the Vancouver Island Regional Library, the Cowichan Valley Regional District, and the Cowichan Regional Hospital Fund. An additional 21 per cent goes toward sewer and water parcel taxes. Property taxes account for half of the town’s operating revenues for 2019.
Property tax notices are being mailed to homes in mid-May. Detailed information about the budget, including breakdowns by department, are available online, under the “Our Financial Plan” section of the Town’s website. Residents are encouraged to direct their questions and comments to council or staff by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or call City Hall at 250-245-6400.