Municipality of North Cowichan looks at 3% hikes for 5 years

Over the next five years, residential tax increases in North Cowichan are projected to be 3.34 per cent in 2015, 3.19 per cent in 2016, 3.32 per cent in 2017, 2.83 per cent in 2018 and 2.77 in 2019 – if council decides to follow recommendations from its staff.

The expenses to be covered include the municipality’s taking on debt for a new RCMP detachment, expected to be $133,000 in 2016, $399,000 in 2017, $532,000 in 2018.

Councillors learned that when taking their first look at the 2015 operating budget Monday, Jan. 12. Budget talks were also held Jan. 20 and will continue in upcoming weeks.

But, as most property owners want to know what they are facing when tax notices come out in the spring, that subject came up early at the first session.

According to North Cowichan staff, municipal property taxes for a representative house in North Cowichan rank sixth highest among 22 Island municipalities.

The principal cost drivers affecting the 2015 North Cowichan budget include $162,000 needed for wage increases, $176,000 for inflation, an increase of $279,000 in the operating budget for the Cowichan Aquatic Centre and the boost in the capital budget of $394,775.

Meanwhile revenue changes include a drop of $20,000 from tax penalties and $188,500 from garbage fees, partially balanced by $150,000 more from MMBC for recycling.

Additional potential cost pressures not included in the 2105 budget could include a funding shortfall at the Cowichan Sportsplex of $57,000; a Chemainus Visitor Information Centre shortfall of $100,000; and a corporate sponsorship study at a cost of $120,000.

At the session on Jan. 20, an attempt to delay construction of the Crofton skate park project (estimated at $200,000) until 2016 didn’t win enough support to pass.

However, council did decide to delay the Fuller Lake Arena parking lot improvements, estimated at $50,000, until 2016.

Councillors also decided to grant pre-budget approval for the construction of an all-weather field at Sherman Road Park, which is budgeted at $1.4 million.