Our financial plan and our taxes – Today in British Columbia

By Councilor Arnold DeBoon, Town of Creston

“Our financial plan and our taxes”

Each year, council is required to adopt a five-year financial plan for the town of Creston in order to establish the annual municipal budget. As a board, that means numerous meetings to set strategic priorities, review overall budget and operating budgets, evaluate the current five-year financial plan, and make decisions on new initiatives, one-time projects, and capital projects. .

The budget process is open to anyone to attend and participate. In recent years, the public has been able to physically attend budget meetings. However, things were a little different for the 2021 budget process, due to restrictions on in-person gatherings in the wake of the pandemic, with the public participating virtually through the Webex platform.

The results of these meetings form our annual municipal budget. All of this information is contained in a 134-page budget booklet which is available on our website at creston.ca/2291/Budget. This article is my attempt to summarize this booklet for your information.

The council has a strategic business plan that focuses on community safety, livability, economic health and service excellence that we developed in early 2020, and established our top five priorities for next 12 to 24 months to guide our decision-making. As part of the 2021 budget process, we have proposed a moderate tax increase of 2.9% for this year.

This is intended to keep pace with inflation to maintain current service levels, infrastructure management reserve funding, fire station debt service and improve service levels where possible. Municipal taxation represents 55% of the total property tax bill for the Town of Creston. The remaining 45% is either set by the province, the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK), the hospital district, BC Assessment and the Municipal Finance Authority.

I encourage you to read the city’s budget documents so you can see for yourself everything that goes into the annual city budget. Information about attending future budget meetings or any council meeting is available by accessing meeting agendas on our city’s website.

When we receive our property tax notices, the burning question is always, “How do we compare to other communities?” Overall, the property tax burden for a taxpayer in the Town of Creston approximates the provincial average. Out of 162 municipalities, Creston ranks approximately 85th on the list. Creston has the third lowest total residential property taxes and charges among seven Kootenay municipalities with populations over 5,000.

Comparisons are based on the average estimated value of homes in each community. For example, if you wanted to move to Fernie and replace your average appraised home in Creston worth $266,830, you would need to buy a home with an average appraised value of $569,308. Total property taxes would go from $2,799 in Creston to $3,978 in Fernie. If your house in Creston is worth twice the average estimated value of a house in town, you pay double the total property taxes. This formula is applied to all residential properties in British Columbia.

It should also be noted that of the 84 municipalities with lower property taxes in British Columbia, 72 of them do not pay the policing fee because they have fewer than 5,000 residents. According to the provincial mandate, any municipality with more than 5,000 inhabitants must pay 70% of the policing costs, while municipalities with less than 5,000 inhabitants do not pay the policing costs directly.

Instead, they pay a police fee, which hardly covers the cost. Conversely, populations of more than 15,000 inhabitants pay 90% of the policing costs. We can’t do much to change that, but we’re trying to do that by participating in discussions with the province through the Union of BC Municipalities. All this information is based on 2020 values, available in provincial local government statistics, and may go against the opinions sometimes expressed on social networks. What you see there is just that – opinions.

I have attended many budget meetings over the past three years and have also witnessed the careful planning that goes into preparing the five-year financial plans. The staff do a great job making sure there is money to fund all city operations, as well as effective capital planning.

A small portion of property taxes are set aside to fund larger projects and address aging infrastructure needs so that we don’t have to try to catch up in subsequent years to fund these items. For example, we have reserves for items such as public works equipment, fire equipment, green initiatives, waste water treatment equipment replacement and many others. There’s over $10 million in our reserves, and of course that’s to cushion the blow of big spending to replace the infrastructure that we know is on the horizon.

City of Creston staff are continually looking for grant opportunities to help keep taxes and fees lower than they otherwise would have been. Some larger grants we have received recently are $7.3 million for wastewater treatment plant upgrades and $7.8 million in grants for upgrading our water treatment system. ‘water. Together, the many small grants also received amounted to millions. All this contributes greatly to reducing our costs.

When you enjoy a glass of fresh water, when you flush the toilet, when you see the storm water disappearing, when you consider that we have adequate police and fire protection, when you see new sidewalks, new roadways and the many other services offered by the city, two things need to be clear. You get what you pay taxes for, and your council and staff aren’t just planning for today, they’re planning for tomorrow!

Creston Valley Advance

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