The Regional District of Central Kootenay has cut its planned tax increase in half because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The future economy is unknown,” said board chair Aimee Watson, “so we are doing our best to make sure essential services are maintained while reducing where we can.”
The planned increase would have seen an intake of $32 million in taxes compared with $29 million last year. Instead it will be about $30.5 million.
Because homeowners in the RDCK are taxed differently depending on where they live and on what services they receive, an overall tax increase is impossible to identify, but the average tax increase in the region will drop from about 10 per cent to about five per cent.
“Anything that was extra was cut for now,” Watson said. “The test will be what happens next year, because some of those things are actually essential, we have just moved them down the line to next year.”
At a meeting on March 19, the board put off $50,000 worth of office space planning for next year and delayed the hiring of a finance manager to the fall for a saving of $75,000 for this partial year.
They saved $80,000 by delaying the hiring of a purchasing agent to next year, reduced expenses for directors for travel to national and regional conferences by $42,000, and removed a $49,000 carry-over of directors’ previous year travel expenses.
The long list of additional reductions and adjustments included cuts to training budgets, delays to an upgrade to the website, reductions of planned contributions to a variety of reserve funds, and reduction of equipment and project budgets.
The board, after some debate, decided to continue work on developing a regional composting program.
“Some directors wanted to push it down the line,” Watson said, “but we have two-thirds of the grant funding already in the bank. We need to roll it out because that is a big project and might employ some contractors who have no work right now for the next six months.”
She said the task for the RDCK is to balance keeping the economy going, keeping workers safe and maintaining essential services.
Those essential services include fire halls, water systems, emergency services, garbage and recycling, search and rescue, and economic development along with the administrative costs of keep these things running.