What do mill rates say

Don’t mean much until you also know the average assessed property values

Ladysmith and North Cowichan are in fourth and seventh place when it comes to the tax rates applied to residential properly owners in 13 Central Island municipalities.

But before taxpayers start grumbling or congratulating their councils for management of taxpayers’ money, they’ll have to cut those apples open to make sure they’re not oranges.

Ladysmith has a mill rate of $5.49 per $1,000 of assessed residential property value; North Cowichan $4.57. At the top of the list is Port Alberni, which charges $9.45 per $1,000; at the bottom, Lantzville, with a rate of $2.17.

But mill rates don’t mean much until you also know the average assessed property values in each municipality. Ladysmith’s average assessed value is $299,300; North Cowichan’s $320,200.

Since municipal taxes are calculated based on the mill rate, times the assessed property value, an ‘average’ homeowner in Ladysmith would face a tax bill of $1,643; in North Cowichan, an ‘average’ homeowner would be paying $1,462.

In Port Alberni, with the highest mill rate on the Central Island, an ‘average’ home owner would pay $1,654. Because the average assessed value of a residential property in Port Alberni is $175,100, it’s high mill rate doesn’t translate into a high tax bill.

But taxes are only part of the picture, and just because one municipality charges higher taxes than its neighbours, doesn’t mean it is being any less frugal or efficient in meeting ratepayers’ needs.

To get to apples and apples, you have to ask what kinds of services are delivered for the tax dollars paid, and how much is tacked on to the municipal bill over and above taxes. For example, what does a municipality charge for utilities like water and sewer services, and garbage collection.

Then there’s things that don’t show up on the bills ratepayers receive, but which residents end up paying. How much does it cost to use community facilities, like recreation centers, or parking spaces in town? Dog licenses? Development permit fees?