“I feel like it’s the cart before the horse,” says Mayor Lori Ackerman.
The operating budget lays out how much tax revenue the City needs to bring in to cover costs, and how. Once that’s determined, the City looks at the property assessments, and establishes its tax rates based on the ratios it chooses.
The approved operating budget uses 2.7 per cent of Fair Share Funds, $585,000 from the Tax Stabilization Reserve, and a tax revenue increase of 5.88 per cent to cover the current work plan. There’s $31.4 million in capital projects for 2014, and $80.7 million in operating projects.
The City doesn’t fully know what it will be getting in property taxes yet, but the assessment roll at the beginning of the year showed an 8.8 per cent increase in property values in Fort St. John. However, Councillor Dan Davies argues if the budget was done after the City knew how much it was getting in property taxes, it could make further adjustments.
“We don’t know until we’ve received our assessments necessarily what revenue we’re going to be bringing in. That’s what worries me,” he says. “If we have a big gap, we’re limited in our options and we may look at our budget through different eyes if we’re looking at a big tax increase.”
The City has previously looked at reducing the tax revenue increased, but doing so would have meant finding another $423,000 in budget cuts.
What the nearly six per cent tax revenue increase will mean for individual residents won’t be determined until the City passes its Tax Rate Bylaw at an upcoming meeting and property owners receive their assessment notice.