Sechelt’s property taxes will increase by 6.91 per cent in 2017, as the District rebuilds reserves and a more secure financial position for the community. Council did not take this step lightly. We recognize the weight of upward cost pressures, from a variety of sources, on residents’ pocketbooks. There are two factors that make a tax increase necessary.
The first is the need to have funding available to address our aging infrastructure; our roads, storm water collection systems and buildings. In 2016, Sechelt updated our Development Cost Charges Bylaw. This brought the capital contributions from new development in line with the costs of the new capital projects our community will need to accommodate that growth. To help deal with the cost of updating existing infrastructure, just under half of the 2017 property tax increase will be allocated to Sechelt’s Capital Infrastructure Renewal Reserve. Sechelt’s 2017-21 Financial Plan looks to continue adequate investments of property tax revenue to meet the needs of the District’s 20-year asset sustainability plan. In my next month’s message I will review 2017’s major capital plan projects, to highlight the community investments being funded this year.
The second part of the 2017 tax increase is needed to fully fund current operational costs. Local governments are required to balance their budgets; service delivery costs must be covered. Tax increases over the past few years have been insufficient to keep up with increased costs. Inflation is one part of this, as the costs for labour, materials and supplies have gone up. A gradual, multi-year increase in unfunded service levels is another component. In the 2017 Budget, reallocation of expenses as well as service fee and tax increases, are required to ensure that Sechelt can pay for the local government services we need to continue as a desirable place to live.
In past years, Councils have tried to manage the need to increase taxes by spending from reserve funds. While manageable in the short term, this created a situation where reserves balances are basically non-existent. Sechelt has, in fact, been running a deficit; rather than collecting the taxes required to meet our community’s needs as they come due. We have reached a point where increasing tax rates cannot be put off.
The new fee rates for sewer users and solid waste (garbage and recycling) collection will fund the ongoing operation and maintenance of those services. A rate change in the sewer parcel tax will fund existing capital debt and infrastructure costs for our wastewater systems. These rate changes ensure that both the sewer and solid waste operations continue to be financially self-funding.
Property owners are able to view their Property Tax Account information online at my.sechelt.ca. I encourage residents to check their accounts early so that they know how the 2017 budget changes have impacted them, in advance of the July 4, 2017 Property Tax due date.