Staff in the Municipality of North Cowichan are now recommending a net 1.8 per cent tax increase for all assessment classes in 2020.
Staff are asking that council consider the tax increase, which is significantly lower than the 4.4 per cent tax increase in 2020 for most of its tax classes that was recommended last month, at its meeting on April 15.
Finance director Mark Frame said in a report that, at council’s instruction, staff has reviewed the municipality’s numerous budgets to estimate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the overall 2020 budget and tax rates.
“It is recognized that 2020 will not be a business as usual scenario, and though it was a very quick review, it reflected budget savings and revenue losses to June 30, 2020,” Frame said.
“If the pandemic goes on longer, there will be other longer-term changes that will have to be made at that time.”
Frame said the most immediate consequences of the pandemic in the municipality have been the closure of recreation facilities and the municipal hall.
“There are minimal short-term savings in wages due to the notice periods for staff affected by the closures,” Frame said.
“The Fuller Lake Arena would have reduced operations considerably in April in any event. However, the longer the Cowichan Aquatic Centre is closed, the more significant these savings become.”
Frame said with the disruption caused by the pandemic, there will be capital projects that the municipality will not be able to complete in 2020.
“In a typical year, the funding for these projects would be carried forward in a capital reserve, and the projects would be rescheduled in a future year as per our asset management policy,” he said.
“Given that this is not a typical year and that the disruption will be considerable and at peak construction time, staff is recommending reducing the 2020 property taxes for cancelled projects. This will effectively mean pushing those and subsequent projects out a year or two.”
Frame said the decrease in revenue from recreational facilities, building permits, interest on investments and other sources is estimated to be approximately $644,000.
But he said savings in capital and operating costs, including postponed road projects, in 2020 is estimated to be approximately $1.34 million.
If council approves the 1.8 per cent tax increase, the net increase for an average single-family home in North Cowichan would be $37.07, compared to $72.50 before the adjustments.