After reductions in a number of areas by council, North Cowichan is now looking at the possibility of a tax increase of 4.04 per cent in 2022, well below the seven per cent increase or more that was projected in August.
But the final tax rates for 2022 in the municipality won’t be decided until this spring, and a lot can change from now until then.
North Cowichan’s finance director Talitha Soldera said that at a recent committee of the whole meeting, council members reduced some reserve-fund transfers that were planned for the year; reduced staff and council travel related to training and decided to use some previous surplus to offset planned increases in RCMP base salaries, and council also decided to budget for only 90 per cent of police costs for the year.
“This does not mean we will have less police, just the number of officers that we have approved for North Cowichan is more than the number of officers that we actually have in a given year,” Soldera said.
“We are billed based on the number of officers we actually have each year, so we are reducing the amount we are budgeting to be closer to what we expect to be billed for the year.”
Soldera said those changes bring the projected tax increase down to 6.04 per cent, but new investments in the municipality are expected to pay for approximately two per cent of the tax increase, leaving an increase of approximately 4.04 per cent for taxpayers.
“The committee of the whole considered the utility budgets and grants-in-aid on Jan. 11 and there are a few reports to council next week that could potentially have budget implications,” she said.
“Then the financial plan bylaw is scheduled to be brought forward for first three readings on Feb. 2. The tax rates will not be considered by council until April, after the release of the Revised Assessment Roll at the end of March.”
The cuts to lower the tax increase for 2022 means that, along with other expenditures, the tax increase in 2023 could be as high as 9.7 per cent.
The projected 4.04 per cent tax increase in 2022 is significantly higher than the 1.4 per cent tax increase that was implemented in 2020 due to the financial uncertainty that was created at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the 2.5 per cent increase in 2021.
Council decided last year to direct staff to continue with a recovery budget after the low tax increases in 2020 and 2021 that would see a steady tax rate increase over the next few years in North Cowichan’s five-year plan.