City chief financial officer Corinne Bomben presents the 2017 budget to Prince Rupert city council on March 6.

City chief financial officer Corinne Bomben presents the 2017 budget to Prince Rupert city council on March 6.

Prince Rupert property taxes going up … again

Prince Rupert homeowners with average assessed value to see an average $38 increase in property taxes.

Prince Rupert chief financial officer Corinne Bomben outlined the details behind an anticipated budget deficit of $160,000 and a subsequent increase to the mill rate of 1.5 per cent.

The City of Prince Rupert provided a first glimpse into the 2017 Financial Plan Budget at the March 6 council meeting.

A few factors contribute to the deficit for the city, including an additional $490,000 in contractual wage and benefit rate increase costs (benefit costs increase by just more than eight per cent, while the increase represents 2.7 per cent of payroll costs), a $29,000 increase in the library budget, a reduction of $100,000 kept through the Ridley Island tax sharing agreement with the District of Port Edward, a reduction in airport revenue of $120,000 due to Hawkair’s departure and a need to subsidize the airport transportation network to the tune of $1 million.

Bomben said that while the mill rate (the amount a property owner pays per $1,000 of assessed value) is set to increase, residential property owners’ taxes will only increase if their property assessments increased.

For a homeowner with an average 2017 assessed value of $260,000 (an increase of the average of $244,000 last year), the increase would be $38 or $0.10 per day.

City home values increased during the year, however some only marginally, while some homes decreased in value.

“This is why it’s important to calculate the expected value of taxes individually to determine the impact to each property owner,” Bomben said, adding that the mill rate has decreased over the past five years and again in 2017 after the recommendation due to increased assessed values.

“We recalculate the mill rate to ensure we don’t take in more money than we require.”

After the 1.5 per cent increase, the residential mill rate is expected to be 6.48162.

Bomben also noted many of the same challenges that the city faced from last year, which is that the municipality must subsidize its own transportation network to its airport, whereas in virtually every other airport in the province, road and light rail user pay systems make transportation self-sufficient. Rupert residents pay a user fee and also pay for subsidization, which is expected to be $1 million this year.

Among the major operating budget items in store for 2017 are the first two phases of the three-phase water supply rehabilitation project, the re-paving of Third Avenue and the expansion of the west berm at the landfill. These projects are funded in part by operating revenues, dividends through the city-owned Legacy Inc. subsidiary ($1.3 million for Planning for Major Projects initiatives and $4.789 million for capital works like the water project), grants, reserves and surplus.

The city’s total operating budget in 2017 is forecasted to be $33.999 million, with the unaudited actual operating budget of 2016 coming in at $33.211 million.

Two public consultation opportunities are set for March 15 and March 20, both at 7 p.m. in city hall council chambers. The first will be broadcast on channels 10 and 310 and the city’s website will have an electronic polling opportunity.

Final BC Assessment revised values after appeals will be available March 31. Council received the CFO’s report and delayed any direction on the budget until after public consultation and the revised BC Assessment figures are released.