The District of Sechelt should expect significant tax hikes in 2017, according to Doug Stewart, Director of Corporate and Financial Services.
Stewart presented a preliminary 2017 Budget Report to Sechelt’s Finance, Culture and Economic Development Committee on Nov. 9, which projects a rise of over five per cent in property taxes, 38 per cent in sewer levies and almost 10 per cent in solid waste levies, for a total increase of over $200 per average home.
In preparing the budget, staff conducted a detailed review of Sechelt’s actual revenues and expenses for the last three years. Some budget line items have been consistently overspent, such as maintenance costs for the Justice and RCMP buildings, which have been higher than forecast every year.
Councillor Noel Muller asked for more details about the RCMP building. “That’s a brand new building, and one of the things I’ve seen every year since I’ve been here is that they’re under constant renovation.”
Overall revenues are up, driven by increases in planning applications and business licences. New home construction resulted in an overall growth in assessments of over three per cent in 2016, with an additional two per cent forecast for 2017.
On the negative side, staff costs will increase. Another large increase in the budget is for contingency. Stewart recommended allowing $200,000 per year for “unexpected” costs, and putting $220,00 (or about three per cent of tax revenues) into a long term capital fund for maintenance and replacement of major assets.
Sewer levies are due to increase in part because sewer costs are running over budget, but also due to an accounting shift. Until now the administrative costs of providing sewer services have been paid out of general property tax revenues, but Stewart noted that this is unfair to property owners who do not receive sewer services.
Stewart warned council that these budget estimates are preliminary. “There are a lot of big numbers in here but nothing written in stone until ultimately council decides,” he said.
A more detailed 2017 budget will come to council in December, and a draft 2017-2021 Financial Plan will be presented for public consultation in the new year.