Under the Council-approved five year financial plan, this year’s tax rate increase is set for three per cent.
Councillors got their first kick at the cat for the budget at their meeting January 11, followed up by community group presentations the next day, which is a club or organization’s chance to ask for money. In many cases it’s a continuation of funding, such as the annual request for the operating grant from the Kitimat Public Library.
One notable factor of the 2016 budget is the potential for a significantly lower tax rate increase than in the plan, at least that was pitched as an idea by Mario Feldhoff. That’s because due to last year’s 100-plus day municipal strike there were operational savings.
That surplus could potentially mean the council can decide to bring their tax rate down, but it’s not a certain deal.
District Treasurer Steve Christiansen says he suspects there will be a surplus this year for the budget (many financial documents aren’t submitted to the town until even next month), but surpluses are not irregular for Kitimat.
“The surplus from 2015 automatically gets rolled into 2016 as a source of revenue. We do that each year. So, if it were a constant amount each year it would not affect how much in taxes we need,” he explained.
While he points out that there were labour savings due to the strike, the town also received lower revenues through things such as fees which reduced the ‘savings’ the town would experience.
“Due to the more expensive labour contract, combined with an increase in recent workload due to town development, we forecast to experience about a 4.2 per cent increase in operations cost,” he said.
The town, he noted during a budget information session, is also planning for any effects of an assessment appeal by a large industrial property in Kitimat. The property wasn’t identified but if the appeal is successful it could mean the District would have to pay back the difference of multiple years of tax collection which for Kitimat adds up to approximately $8.7 million, he told councillors.
“If successful, the District will be required to apply the respective year’s tax rate to each lower assessment and pay the property owner back, with interest.”