Taxpayers face small tax hike

Budget discussion results in 1.58 per cent property tax increase.

City of Salmon Arm Chief Financial Officer Monica Dalziel.

City of Salmon Arm Chief Financial Officer Monica Dalziel.

As city budgets go, council’s process Monday of paring and tweaking the city’s finances for 2017 was, as Coun. Kevin Flynn remarked, “certainly easier than most.”

The end result Monday gives taxpayers a 1.58 per cent property tax increase. For a person with what the city considers an average home assessed at $315,000, the increase amounts to $22.65. For a $500,000 business, the increase will be $92.10.

The 2017 budget does not include an increase to the water and sewer frontage taxes or user fees, nor to the solid waste recycling fees.

Following Monday’s day-long meeting, Monica Dalziel, the city’s chief financial officer, characterized council’s paring of individual department budgets as “pretty even throughout.”

As is the procedure, staff presented council with their budget, this year one that would require a 2.5 per cent tax increase. Council reduced the increase by about one per cent.

“Council reallocated and took funding from different sources – it was pretty evenly reviewed,” Dalziel told the Observer.

The city’s outstanding debt at the end of 2017 is estimated at $23.5 million. Dalziel emphasized that council has been diligent at retiring debenture debts early.

The main factors Dalziel listed leading to the tax increase for the $32.9 million budget were wages and benefits with a net impact of an $185,000 increase, policing at $165,000, transportation services at $245,000, parks at $110,000  and fiscal services with a drop of  $100,000.

Wages and benefits were discussed in camera because of their  staffing and collective bargaining implications.

The policing budget included construction of a storage building on the east side of the parking lot to store such things as equipment, confiscated items and hazardous substances. Staff Sgt. Scott West noted how crowded detachment storage is and that police officers – not locally – have recently had to go to hospital because of exposure to fentanyl and other drugs.

At the fire department, council agreed to provide paid on-call firefighters with 24-hour accident insurance coverage. Fire Chief Brad Shirley told council other municipalities offer it and it would help attract and retain firefighters.

One big-ticket item in the 2017 budget to be paid for with the Federal Gas Tax Fund is the beautification of Hudson Street from Ross Street to McGuire Lake. It will include sidewalks, brickwork and lighting.

Design of the Ross Street Underpass, as well as work with CP Rail on track design, will continue in 2017, said Rob Niewenhuizen, the city’s director of engineering and public works.

Work on the new Shuswap Memorial Cemetery will continue in 2017, with it expected to open in the fall.

Parks and recreation projects planned for 2017 include: a boat launch at Canoe; three more pickleball courts at Klahani Park making a total of six; and a second and larger swim platform at Canoe Beach.

A storm water master plan is proposed, dependent on provincial funding approvals. Dalziel noted that without it, “the city is not meeting the drainage needs” of residents, businesses and developers.