The news is good for the 656 homeowners living in Electoral Area B, because property taxes will actually decrease this year even though residents will be chipping in a little more for regional services.
Area B has almost 1,400 people living in the largely rural area that extends just north of Genelle to the Paulson Bridge, through Sheep Creek, Blackjack and Paterson to the U.S. Border and includes Oasis, Rivervale and Casino.
Those residents account for about 5 per cent of the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) tax base, and pay for regionally shared services such as fire and police, recreation, transit, and solid waste management.
Based on the average assessed property value of $200,000 in Area B, a zone that covers 10 per cent of the district’s land base, a homeowner will pay about $930 compared to $960 last year.
Property taxes and issues specific to Area B were discussed during the region’s annual town hall meeting last week when a cross section of a few dozen people met with RDKB representatives in the Oasis Community Hall.
Linda Worley, Area B director, was on hand to answer questions from the community Wednesday evening and John MacLean, RDKB’s chief administrative officer (CAO), presented a background history of regional services and various projects that are up for approval in the 2014 budget.
“The budget is really about our priorities,” explained the CAO. “And what services you would like the RDKB to continue to deliver,” he said. “Or what you may not be interested in having anymore.”
Two big ticket items checked off the regional district’s duty list, in particular services that fell under the helm of East End Service (participants) from Rossland, Warfield, Trail, Montrose, Fruitvale, Area A and Area B, account for the latter’s three per cent tax drop.
The first, was the ending of three-year agreement with the Lower Columbia Initiatives Corporation (LCIC) last spring, which is a Trail-based economic development service that Area B contributed $20,000 annually to focus on regional business incentives.
“We won’t be taxing for the LCIC service this year,” said MacLean. “We are using surplus and they have a mandate to make a case and show us what they can do.”
In addition, Area B taxpayers are off the hook to pay almost $10,000 annually for regional airport service after the RDKB sold the local airstrip to the City of Trail earlier this month.
“Up until four days ago this was a regional service,” said MacLean at the Feb. 19 town hall gathering.
He confirmed that the $1.28 million deal add funds to administration reserves, and “now that it is sold there is no taxation this year.”
MacLean explained that available services in the regional district vary annually, but will account for a $1.1 million budget increase this year; a hike that property tax requisition is expected to cover.
“In 2014 there is a fairly significant increase I can tell you for a fact,” he continued. “There is a $400,000 increase related to a fire service we took over in Grand Forks,” said MacLean. “Things like that happen but the regional district must say how those costs are going to be shared and what the requisition limit is, which is called a tax cap.”
Specific to the Area B tax base, once the final budget is adopted March 20, an additional $8,700 will be owing to the regional district to share costs of the BC local government election scheduled for Nov. 15.
Additionally, the recreation commission budget increased almost $8200 related to this year’s operating costs, although future contributions to regional recreation will be studied when Area B’s agreement with the City of Trail draws to a close later this year.
Aside from regional cost-sharing, a small population of residents living in Oasis and Rivervale pay sub-regional taxes for sewer and water services.
A significant project the RDKB is bringing to the board for this week, is the proposed installation of an automated chlorination system in Rivervale.
“The source water (Rivervale) is both a well and a service that during the spring the freshet causes issues with turbidity,” explained MacLean. “What we are doing is putting in automated systems so we can monitor water as it comes in and adjust chlorine levels accordingly.”
MacLean closed with discussion about the RDKB’s solid waste management plan that is currently being updated to include a focus on recycling kitchen waste.
“If we can remove those organics from our waste stream the extension on our landfills is staggering,” he said. “I can promise you, without a shadow of a doubt, siting a new landfill is the last thing any of us want to do anywhere in the regional district. It’s horrible and pits neighbour against neighbour.”
The evening rounded out with the gallery questioning Director Worley about issues ranging from the possibility of a second access road in Rivervale, emergency planning related to rail lines running through Area B communities, and insufficient repair of local roads and highways.
“I have been in constant contact with the department of highways and with CPR in Calgary in regard to two sites that are very vulnerable,” confirmed Worley. “Which is Rivervale with only one access and China Creek where sloughing is happening very close to the edge of the rail,” she continued. “I keep pecking away at it and I will not give up until I get an answer and plans for action.”