Photo: Fort St. John residents listened to a presentation on the City’s proposed operating budget and tax rates Wednesday evening./Kimberley Molina
**For a copy of the presentation made by City Hall, download the pdf at the bottom of this story.
Any frustration over a proposed residential tax rate increase in Fort St. John appeared to be outweighed by a surprise announcement in a homeowner’s grant increase.
Fort St. John residents who attended Wednesday evening’s public meeting were given a breakdown of the City’s proposed operating budget and tax rate structure.
Only around 20 residents attended the meeting that included Mayor Bruce Lantz, most of the city councillors and several city staff members.
The City has proposed an operating budget of $36,845,563 for 2011, which includes spending for general government services, public health and welfare, sewer utilities, recreation and culture and protective services. Approximately 53 per cent of the City’s revenue comes from property tax collection and the rest comes from grants, investments and user fees.
During the presentation, the City announced that it had just recently received the official numbers from B.C. Assessment, which has slightly altered the tax rate for different property classes.
If the 2011 operating budget is approved by council, the residential combined property tax rate would be 5.089 per cent, the business tax rate would be 14.317 per cent and the light industrial tax rate would be 25.795 per cent. The rates represent a 0.84 per cent increase for residential property owners, along with a 0.36 per cent and 8.51 per cent decrease for business and light industrial properties, respectively, over 2010 rates.
City Councillor Don Irwin said the presentation was the best and clearest he had seen in his six years on council. Irwin said he felt the presentation was well laid out and well received by residents.
Despite the clearly laid out presentation, at least one resident said he does not understand why a residential property tax increase is necessary. Bill Eberle is a retired resident who owns a home on 104 Ave. Eberle said although he appreciated the presentation, he feels residential taxes should be kept consistent.
He said he feels a tax increase is especially hard on senior citizens who are already struggling on fixed incomes.
[asset|aid=3509|format=mp3player|formatter=asset_bonus|title=bef8d6847eacdd0f49cb8b993104b15b-Bill Eberle 1_1_Pub.mp3]
At the end of the presentation, Mayor Bruce Lantz announced the City had just heard that the provincial Northern and Rural Area Homeowner Benefit is increasing by $200 in 2011. The increase would more than offset any rise in property taxes the majority of homeowners in the city would be required to pay.
The increase means that homeowners under the age of 65 will be able to claim a $770 reduction in their property taxes and those who are over 65 years-old or are disabled can claim $1,045.
Homeowners can claim the benefit amount when they pay their taxes. The City then reclaims that amount from the Province.
Council will vote on the final operating budget in April.