Any day now you will receive your property tax bill. You may be shocked to see what you have to pay this year. Municipal taxes are based on the assessed value of your home, which is then multiplied by a tax rate set by the Town. This year the Town of Ladysmith has increased residential taxes by 5 per cent (4.96) and 3.5 per cent for commercial properties. Water and sewer parcel tax have also been raised by an additional $90.
That means is that I will be paying approximately $197.50 more than last year which is a 12 per cent increase.
Town Council tries to limit the municipal tax rate increases to around 3.5 to 5 per cent, hopefully less, each year. To do this they have to make many decisions to keep to an acceptable level. This year they had to decide what items and projects will be done or dropped this year. What are some of the items they are spending money on this year? The provisional budget issued on April 18 shows that $164,760 is for the Trolley, an increase of 17.96 per cent. It also shows Wages-Others-Corporate increases by 221.8 per cent to $11,263. Legal Services rises to $50,000 from $30,000, a 66.67 per cent increase. Salaries-Finance jumps to $80,124, up 15.96 per cent and Benefits-Public Works Administration goes up 105.76 per cent from $28,660 to $58,970. I must point out that in the final budget some of these numbers may change, but I doubt it.
Did you know that your Provincial Home Owner Grant has been raised by $200 this year? The Town Council knows. This is one of the reasons that Council took advantage to increase its reserves for future capital projects by $210,000, by targeting your additional grant money. They voted to increase your parcel taxes by $60 for sewer and $30 for water. Their rationale is that if they tack on this additional $90 to your tax bill, you will still be paying less tax this year than last year, because the Province gave you $200 to help reduce your taxes. This was done without public input unlike Duncan with its Budget Open House.
Using their logic I will be paying about $2.50 less that than last year. The way I see it is that I am paying the Town of Ladysmith $195 more. First the home owner grant of $200 is not earmarked so the municipalities can raise your taxes. Secondly, not everyone is lucky enough to get this additional $200. Commercial properties don’t get the grant, so guess who will be get charged more for products and services?
I have no problem with asking the taxpayer for more money for future projects by building up reserves, as these projects are needed and benefit the whole community. It is the way the Town has gone about doing it that makes me feel that this is a cash grab just because the Province has granted us this money.
The bottom line is that when you add in the increase in parcel taxes, your percentage increase will be more than the 4.96 per cent and 3.5 per cent increases toted by the Town.
At least that’s as I see it.