Several concerned Port Clements residents wrote letters and showed up at Monday night’s council meeting to say the village simply can’t afford the property tax increases projected in the five-year financial plan.
“Our small town is already hit by the loss of many families and jobs and the economic future of this town isn’t that great,” wrote Urs Thomas. “We have too many empty houses in this town and I don’t think your proposed tax increase will help find families that are willing to live here and buy a house or property.”
According to the draft five-year financial plan, the village plans to collect $115,000 in taxes this year, a figure which is projected to increase 53% over the next five years, to $176,000 in 2007.
However, it’s important to note that this is simply a projection for five years down the road. Council can change this figure when it prepares next year’s financial plan, and again in subsequent years.
Council members also pointed out that Port’s taxes are only a portion of a homeowner’s property tax bill, which also includes school and other taxes. That means that even if Port’s taxes rise by 12 percent (as they are projected to this year), a homeowner’s total tax bill probably won’t rise by that much.
Also, figures like the 12 percent increase this year and the projected 53-percent increase over the next five years are increases in the total amount of property tax collected by the village. It does not necessarily mean that an individual homeowner’s taxes will increase by this amount (although it does indicate that a large increase is likely). For example, if the number of homeowners grows significantly by 2007, the increased tax will be shared by a greater number of taxpayers. Conversely, if Port’s population drops, the tax burden will be shared by fewer taxpayers, meaning that property taxes will rise.
Mayor Dale Lore said that even with this year’s tax increase, Port collects less property tax per person than most other communities in BC. The village is also collecting less tax this year than it did in 1993, he said.
“This community does not have much in the way of expenditures,” he said.
Council has planned several major capital expenditures for the next couple of years, but (as the Observer mentioned last week) most of these will be paid for through grants from the federal and provincial governments, and the Gwaii Trust.
“We try to take every tax dollar and at least double it,” Mr. Lore told the residents at the meeting. “We’re trying not to do anything where it doesn’t double or triple with grant money.”
For example, some of the biggest-ticket items planned for this year – public works mapping, sewer system environmental upgrade and the St. Mark’s church restoration – will be covered 100-percent by grants.
Some council members at Monday night’s meeting may have given members of the public the impression that last week’s Observer article was incorrect. The Observer stands by its article. Members of the public can read the draft five-year financial plan for themselves. Copies are available at the village office.
Council must approve a final version of this year’s budget and the five-year financial plan by May 15.
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