Big projects won’t impact latest tax bill

Despite new projects breaking ground in Trail, property tax will only rise by 2.5 per cent.

Trail landowners might be bracing themselves for the inevitable tax bill this year given all the new projects breaking ground in the city.

After taxpayers said “Yes” to two city loans totalling about $11 million, the assent could have hit the pocketbook hard in 2015.

But the $6.3 million Riverfront Centre will not impact wallets yet, explains the city’s chief administrative officer (CAO).

“The debt will not be issued in 2015 given that there has not been any direct expenditure for design or construction of the facility,” said CAO David Perehudoff.

“Therefore there is no increase in 2015 property taxes to service the debenture.”

He said pending the construction schedule, the loan probably won’t be issued until next fall, so direct taxpayer impact won’t happen until 2017 when the city commences repayment.

And as promised by the previous Trail council, taxpayers won’t be footing the bill for the new walking bridge through property tax revenue.

That $10 million project is slated to begin by early fall, with Trail’s $5 million apportionment for the foot bridge to be paid through the city’s gas tax funds over the next decade.

“The city’s capital financing plan for the pedestrian/pipe bridge was based on the city using the annual federal gas tax revenue to offset the debenture debt payment in its entirety,” Perehudoff confirmed.

“Therefore, there will not be any increase in City of Trail property taxes to service this debt.”

What does the mean when Trail ratepayers receive their annual May bill?

The property tax hike sits just above the country’s average inflation rate at 2.46 per cent or $25.46 based on the average residential home valued at $182,679.

“What we’ve really focused on the last month is the operating budget,” explained Trail Mayor Mike Martin. “What we did was set ourselves an objective to try to keep it under three per cent, which we believe is a reasonable property tax increase, but do that without jeopardizing service levels.”

Trail’ current operating budget, which includes taxes the city collects then forwards to other forms of government, the regional district, and regional hospital district, is $25 million.

It’s too early in budget talks to cement what the overall bill will be, pending this year’s tax requisitions, but last year, the average homeowner’s invoice (not including homeowner grant) was about $2,050.

That amount was down about $9 dollars from 2013.

The decrease was related to a loss of regional services like the airport and economic development, which offset the city’s actual four per cent tax increase to cover Trail’ recreational services and various infrastructure projects.

The Regional District of Kootenay Boundary requisition is not about to trend downward again, however, mostly related to a renewed economic agreement.

Though not yet finalized, Trail will end up paying an increase from $4.25 million from $4.23 million in 2014.

The next phase of Trail council budget discussions relates to more visual improvements in the city, like additional downtown revitalization.

The capital plan is $1.8 million this year, though the list is lengthy and requires long term planning, says Martin.

“We as council remain concerned about mounting infrastructure requirements that we need to pay attention to.”

He said with four new members on the panel, Trail council agreed that this was not the year to make any rash decisions.

“I think as a council in this first year, what we needed to do was rigorously look at how we can move forward,” he explained. “Not only to sustain the infrastructure we have but also managing projects going forward.”

He mentioned improving the Trail Regional Airport service and council’s commitment to a second access road to Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital as priorities coming down the pike.

“It’s a matter of how do we fund those in the future with all the other requirements we have,” he said. “So it’s going to be a good discussion amongst council and we really want to make sure we maintain what we’ve got, advance what is needed and give ourselves the opportunity to look at how we move forward effectively.”