Salmon Arm taxpayers face a 2.51 per cent tax increase in 2020 budget

Playing catch-up with road network maintenance one of big-ticket items

After two days of cutting and trimming, city council arrived at a 2.51 per cent increase in taxes to fund the 2020 city budget.

The initial budget put forward by city staff amounted to a 4.6 per cent increase, but council reduced that proposed number by nearly half.

For the owner of a $320,000 home in Salmon Arm, 2.51 per cent means a tax increase of $31.61.

For the owner of a $500,000 business property in Salmon Arm, 2.51 per cent amounts to a tax increase of $139.30.

In addition, the water and sewer use fees will go up by two per cent, meaning an extra $10 to $15 per household.

Mayor Alan Harrison, who described the budget as “challenging” in terms of keeping the tax increase as low as possible, said asphaltic overlays stand out as one of the biggest additions. Asphaltic overlay is a way of paving that involves applying a layer of asphalt over a deteriorating surface instead of tearing up the old asphalt completely.

Council added $200,000 to the paving budget, in keeping with what city staff had recommended. A recent pavement condition survey put the city’s road network on the low side of a ‘poor’ rating. In 2011, the last time a report was done, the rating was on the high side of ‘fair.’

Read more: Parcel tax jump coming to combat city’s poor road rating

Read more: Building more, bigger, better – can we afford it?

Earlier this year the city increased the transportation parcel tax, which goes directly to asphaltic overlays and is separate from general revenue, from $120 to $150 per parcel. At that time city staff had told council the tax would have to be raised to $342 per parcel to actually improve the poor rating.

Although Coun. Kevin Flynn had initially suggested the increase in the 2020 budget for asphaltic overlays be halved to $100,000 and instead funded by the parcel tax, after discussion a majority of council agreed to keep it at $200,000. Coun. Tim Lavery spoke against reducing the $200,000 increase, stating that successive councils had “dropped the ball” in not funding paving adequately.

In the 2020 budget, the city will also be funding the addition of another RCMP officer to the detachment, bringing the number of municipal officers to 20.

The number of provincially funded officers will remain at five, despite repeated pleas to the province over the years to increase that number. The cost for the 20th municipal officer will be split between the 2020 and 2021 budgets as the officer will not be starting before September.

Read more: Salmon Arm policing costs go up but officer numbers don’t

Read more: Salmon Arm council to lobby for highway improvements, police officers and more

Harrison noted that the community has grown a lot since 2009, but the number of RCMP officers hasn’t increased since then.

“We spend more money on protective services than anything else but, that said, safety is very important.”

Staff Sgt. Scott West explained that the department is short of investigative positions so has been having to pull from general duty officers. However, with increasing calls for services, that’s not possible.

West said it also means overtime. And if he needs to call in the South East District Emergency Response Team, “that’s $15,000 as soon as I pick up the phone.”

Other expenditures Harrison mentioned is funding to replace the sidewalk on the south side of First Street SE, across from St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. The city received a short petition urging its repair after a request was made last year as well.

Harrison said it is “incredibly old and really needed doing.”

Also in the budget is work on parks such as Jackson in Canoe, Blackburn and Klahani, as well as a focus on ‘active transportation,’ particularly bike safety.

“Especially with electric bikes now, we have to find ways to make it safe,” Harrison said.

@SalmonArm
marthawickett@saobserver.net

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