Area K taxes up for 2014
By Alex Cooper/Arrow Lakes News; and Greg Nesteroff/Black Press
Taxpayers in the Arrow Lakes area of the Regional District of Central Kootenay can expect about a two per cent tax increase this year, should the board approve the 2014 financial plan on Thursday.
Stuart Horn, the RDCK’s chief financial officer, said Area K residents will experience a 1.9 per cent tax increase, mainly a result of rising property assessments.
Nakusp residents will see about a 0.5 per cent increase in the portion of their tax bill that goes to the regional district.
The other main driver of the tax increases is an extra $25,000 that is going to fund the Nakusp arena.
For the rest of the RDCK, taxpayers should see their bills remain relatively unchanged this year. The board is expected to adopt a budget this week that will result in no net tax increase for most homeowners.
“It really comes down to the fact there weren’t a lot of service increases,” said Horn, who joined the organization last year. “We haven’t seen a need for it.”
Horn said one exception was the addition of a second bylaw enforcement officer, which had some impact on the rural administration budget, but it was running at a surplus anyway.
District-wide, the only new service is the regionalized Kaslo fire department, which affects the village and rural area surrounding it. “Everybody else has stayed plus or minus two per cent and it’s been driven by the assessments,” Horn said, noting that on the whole, property assessments went up.
The regional district is able to hold the line on taxes partly due to the discovery of a $1.5 million surplus in its general administration budget, which all areas pay into. Horn said keeping reserves often makes sense, but not in this case.
“Something like waste, you’d want to keep a bit extra on hand to make sure you have enough in case something big comes up. A service like [general administration] is staff costs, director costs — there aren’t a lot of what ifs.”
Horn said his current direction is to use the surplus to keep taxation flat as long as possible, although that might change when the board meets Thursday.
Area F director Ron Mickel agreed that while it’s good to have a contingency, “you don’t need anywhere near that. I know it’s a rainy day fund, but I don’t feel comfortable with it. That is definitely too much.”
Mickel said some directors want to use the money to delay future tax increases while others think it should be returned to taxpayers faster. “The question is whether to give that surplus back in one shot or over a number of years. That debate is still in progress,” he said.
• Recent budget open houses were sparsely attended. No members of the public attended the Nakusp open house. A session in Nelson last week drew about ten people, while earlier meetings in Salmo and Castlegar had five and four respectively. Horn said there were no consistent concerns, with different issues raised in each community.
• The regional district provides about 160 services, which each fall within one of seven budget areas: general administration, rural administration, development services, environmental services, regional parks, fire protection, and community sustainability.