Burns Lake’s 2017 budget reflected a zero per cent increase in taxation rates for both businesses and residences.
Since 2012, the highest tax rate increase in Burns Lake was one per cent. But while a low tax increase is certainly popular among residents, is it good for the municipality?
According to Burns Lake councillor Kelly Holliday, the answer is no.
“If we’re only raising taxes to one per cent, or not raising them at all, we’re getting behind,” she said. “It’s making it very difficult for us to save money for future projects or to replace infrastructure or repair infrastructure as it breaks.”
In 2015, the municipality applied for a grant to undertake phase one of the Eighth Avenue/Centre Street repaving project. However, the grant was not forthcoming. The project would begin with the pavement of a portion of Eighth Avenue and Centre Street at a cost of approximately $3 million.
“Right now we’re putting $200,000 a year towards paving, and we’re lucky if we can just resurface half of an avenue,” said Holliday. “This only leaves $42,000 for potholes, and this year there’s more potholes than there ever was before.”
Holliday said it’s never been more important for Burns Lake to prepare for the future by making investments and diversifying the economy, specially with the annual allowable cut being significantly reduced in 2020.
“We don’t have a crystal ball to determine what the reduction in the annual allowable cut is going to do and make our town look like, but we have a pretty good idea based on past experiences in other communities,” she said.
“We have to look at how the entire community – not just government – can support our economy so that we can sustain ourselves through 2020 and beyond,” she continued. “Because if we don’t, we’re going to have an empty town.”
“As business owners, we can’t stay in business forever without customers,” she added. “Everybody needs to pull together and work together to pull Burns Lake through what could be a crucial next four years.”
According to Burns Lake Mayor Chris Beach, the village has been able to keep tax increases at a minimum by carefully monitoring expenditures and staying within set limits across all departments.
“In 2017, assessments increased and therefore we were able to meet all our targets without a rate increase,” he explained. “The village has also been analyzing the services we provide in respect to whether the service is covered under taxation or whether there should be a separate fee for that service; we have implemented fee increases in recent years to provide more equality between the taxpayer and the user.”
Mayor Beach added that the village recognizes the need to prepare for the future.
“Over recent years, the village has set significant target reserve contribution levels that we feel are sufficient for future funding needs,” he said. “We have been able to meet these contribution levels every year; this means that the village is indeed putting money aside and making investments to prepare for the future.”
This year’s contribution to the village reserves was just over $400,000, which was above council’s goal for 2017.