Roger Bruce, a Duncan city councillor, has issues with the city’s plans to increase its tax rates in 2018.
Bruce said council’s decision at its meeting on April 16 to increase tax rates by 2.78 per cent is misleading taxpayers.
He said the actual tax hike would have been above four per cent this year if council hadn’t decided to take $54,276 from the city’s police bridging capital fund so that the tax increase would be under three per cent.
“I’ve always supported lowering taxes and have worked hard at that for the last three years that I’ve been on council,” Bruce said.
“I find it odd that with a vote on amalgamation with North Cowichan coming up in a few months, we’d take a chunk of money from our reserves so that we could keep our tax increase for 2018 under three per cent. I haven’t seen anything like it on my three years on council.”
The city’s police-bridging capital fund is money Duncan has been saving every year in preparation for when its population exceeds 5,000 people, and the city will be mandated to pay much more for its policing costs.
Bruce and Duncan Mayor Phil Kent were the only two council members who voted against the tax plan.
The city announced in January that homeowners and businesses in Duncan could see a slight decrease in their property taxes in 2018 for the first time in years.
That’s because it was determined at the time that there were significant new property assessments in the city due to new construction this year, providing the opportunity for additional funds to be contributed towards capital expenditures without major impacts to current property owners.
But Talitha Soldera, Duncan’s director of finance, said that there was a calculation error in the original estimates provided to council.
She said the original estimate of a tax decrease was determined when comparing 2018 tax rates to 2016 tax rates instead of 2017 tax rates.
Coun. Sharon Jackson said at the April 16 meeting that she realizes that the decision to take funding from the police bridging capital fund would have to be addressed again in future years, but she would still vote for the plan.
“I feel it’s important to keep the increase to tax rates under three per cent,” she said.
“It will give me some peace of mind, for this year anyway.”
Coun. Tom Duncan also said he wants to keep the tax increase under three per cent in 2018.
“The inflation rate isn’t even at three per cent,” he said.
“This will be more palatable for the public.”
Mayor Phil Kent said using money from reserve funds to help keep this year’s tax increase lower will have a “one-time impact” on taxes and the future council, whether it be Duncan city council or the council of a newly amalgamated North Cowichan and Duncan, will have to deal with the capital shortfall moving forward.