Increase of 2.46% will ‘steady’ tax rates: mayor

North Cowichan taxpayers will see a 2.64 per cent increase in their rates this year.

Council gave the first three readings to the 2014-2018 financial plan – which includes the 2014 budget – and the 2014 tax rates bylaw on Wednesday.

By law, the council has to pass a five-year financial plan, although only the first year is fixed. The next four are projections.

The 2.64 per cent increase is one of the smaller increases in recent history, Mayor Jon Lefebure noted.

"Prior to the last three years, there were a lot of ups and downs," he said.

In the past, council has lowered taxes "artificially," in recent years, Lefebure pointed out, by appropriating surplus funds.

This year, councillors went in with the goal of steadying the tax rate and providing adequate funding for public projects, which meant a slight decrease in the rate of tax increases.

"I feel we’re in a steady regime right now," Lefebure said. "We’ve projected out that the tax increase for the next four years should stay in the two per cent range."

The 2.64 per cent increase means that property taxes will go up $11.98 per $100,000 of assessment, or $37.80 on an average family dwelling.

Councillors John Koury and Al Siebring voted against the five-year plan. Koury felt that his questions about the 2014 budget hadn’t been answered by staff, among other concerns.

"The problem is that we’re budgeting this year’s budget on last year’s budget, not last year’s actuals," he said.

Siebring voted against it because he didn’t support the tax rates bylaw, feeling that too much burden is being placed on residents as opposed to industry, and that the increase could be brought down further.

In 2012 council decided to reduce their reliance on taxes from heavy industry, notably Catalyst mill in Crofton, by making a significant shift of a larger portion of the burden onto residential taxes.