The average Colwood homeowner can expect to see a tax increase of about three per cent – or $52 – for 2019.
The city’s proposed financial plan and tax rate have not been approved by council yet, but Colwood Mayor Rob Martin said the tax increase should be somewhere around the 2.9 per cent mark.
Some of the reasons for the increase are out of the municipality’s control, Martin said.
“We have external pressures,” Martin said. “For example we just negotiated a three-year contract with the union for the municipality.”
A portion of the increase – about $10 or 0.56 per cent of it – is due to the introduction of the Employer Health Tax.
Martin said community growth is also going to contribute to the tax increase but in the long-term, as development moves into the city, the numbers will stabilize.
“We’re growing and we’re growing fast,” Martin said. “We’re going to see some short-term pressures from a tax lift standpoint.”
Infrastructure replacement reserve accounts contribute to the tax increase by one per cent, or $18, and other reserves are contributing to the increase by $7.58 or 0.42 per cent.
According to the draft financial plan, Colwood endorsed the city’s Sustainable Infrastructure Replacement Plan early this year. The plan forecasted capital spending to reach $425 million over the next 50 years. The gap between current funding and sustainable funding was estimated to grow to $190 million if left unchanged over the next 50 years.
In order to avoid the funding gap from growing, the city is dedicating new funding to the plan starting this year.
It is also increasing the transfer to reserve for sustainable infrastructure replacement by one per cent of property tax revenue each year beginning in 2019 and ending in 2030.
The city is also adopting critical asset management policies related to new construction taxation revenue, contributed assets, new capital services and debt servicing retirement.
“Part of the reason we’re doing this and you’re seeing a one per cent tax increase is to fund the long-term sustainability of the municipality,” Martin said. “We do not want to be, for example, in the situation Oak Bay is in where they see their infrastructure failing.”
Martin said he thinks investing in long-term plans for the city will put it in a good place as it continues to grow.
“I think that the valid argument is that people in the past have paid for the infrastructure that we’re using now,” Martin said. “I think it’s our responsibility to pay for infrastructure that future generations are going to be using in our community.”
The remaining 0.92 per cent, or $16.62, increase is for department core increases. A few examples of this include the Transportation Master Plan, the Parks Master Plan, coastline erosion mitigation, and a land development software to streamline development services and keep the public better informed.
There are also increases for contracted services like the RCMP, West Shore Parks and Recreation and the Library.
The city is saving money due to the new fire dispatch centre, which is saving the city $64,800, and WorkSafeBC premiums, which are saving the city about $99,000 for its safety record since 2016.
The draft financial plan can be viewed online and residents are able to attend meetings about the budget as well. “I would suggest that if the community feels the increase is too high, that they make sure they participate in the committee of the whole meetings as we go through out budget so they understand where those cost drivers are,” Martin said.