Burns Lake council sat down for a budget meeting on April 16, working out the financial plan for the village — and gave a thumbs-up to increased rates for all categories of property taxes, except for the business rate.
Residential taxes up
Faced with three options presented by finance director Susan Meeds, council ultimately chose a one that shifted the tax burden from businesses to homeowners.
The changes mean that property taxes on people’s homes will rise from 7.44 to 7.52 percent, while the business rate is slated to drop from 15.99 to 15.38 percent.
Homeowners will pay an added $35 for every $100,000 in assessed value, according to a document prepared by village staff.
The option chosen by council involved the least amount of change or impact for everyone involved, said Councillor Charlie Rensby. “That would be a good, safe, conservative way to move forward,” he said.
The tax rate is set to rise by 0.35 percent for utilities, 0.5 percent for industry and 0.08 percent for recreational properties.
Unfreezing the budget
When it came to budget items, one item that was more expensive than expected this year was snow clearing: $76,000 was budgeted for 2018 — but costs have already reached about $83,000.
Meeds proposed that the snow clearing budget be increased by $50,000, with any leftover money going into a reserve account to spend on plowing the streets in future snowy winters. Those funds would come from the village’s surplus, so it wouldn’t increase taxation, said Meeds.
Mayor Chris Beach remarked that it was money well spent, and that snow removal in Burns Lake compared favorably to Prince George. “People really appreciate it,” he said.
Councillor Kelly Holliday suggested bumping the increase up to $75,000 to ensure that there was enough for the rest of the year — in case Burns Lake faces another winter of heavy snowfalls.
But before council could vote on the motion, Councillor Susan Schienbein moved that the question be deferred to an in-camera meeting, meaning that it took place in private.
At the time of writing, council has not yet revealed changes to the snow removal budget.
Later on in the meeting, Schienbein questioned why a grant for $25,000 — provided by the Union of BC Municipalities to fund an emergency generator — would cause the budget for that item to increase from $75,000 to $100,000.
She suggested that, on the contrary, the grant should cause that budget line to fall to $50,000.
To explain the change, council called in fire chief Rob Krause. He said the previous estimate was out of date.
“That was four years ago,” he said, noting that prices had increased — notably due to changes in Canada-US exchange rate.
Councillor Charlie Rensby remarked that he’s familiar with diesel generators, and that $100,000 was a pretty good estimate. The motion for increased funding was ultimately carried.