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Fruitvale council keeps rein on property taxes

Fruitvale residents could be excused if they felt a hand in their wallets Monday night and it wasn’t their own.

Fruitvale residents could be excused if they felt a hand in their wallets Monday night and it wasn’t their own.

The village’s five-year financial plan — which includes the municipal budget — was delivered in council chambers and it wasn’t just local government tugging at taxpayers’ purse strings.

In delivering a $4.4 million balanced budget, with an overall three per cent rise in general property taxes, the village will also be the muscle collecting tax dollars for no less than six other agencies and two parcel taxes.

The village has to collect Regional District of Kootenay Boundary and School District 20 taxes, policing taxes (RCMP), the Regional Hospital District requisition, the BC Assessment Authority and Municipal Finance Authority taxes, as well as the water and sewer parcel taxes.

It’s unsavoury job, but it is made less painful for residents in the heart of the Beaver Valley knowing they will only be paying 1.5 per cent more on their total tax bill for 2012 — around $37 more on an average $215,400 assessed home.

The bulk of the increase came from the sewer parcel tax, rising by 37.5 per cent ($22.50) to $82.50 on a total $2,599.52 tax bill — accounting for nearly 60 per cent of the 2012 increase — as the village looks to build a reserve for future infrastructure upgrades.

In formulating the budget, which passed three readings Monday night, council was initially charged with the task of maintaining their village service levels, keep taxation increases below three per cent, and not run a deficit. However, with a tax base 95 per cent residential and no industrial tax base at all, Fruitvale chief administrative officer Lila Cresswell said to maintain high service levels and freeze business tax levels, taxation had to reflect that sentiment.

“They follow the taxpayer. People say, ‘Your taxes are high,’ it’s because, recently, residential rates are all there is,” she said.

Fruitvale is considered as having a stable economic base and population due to significant family and youth influence, offsetting an aging population. The village does face some hurdles to development, including little infill opportunity (available land), small geographic area and a low assessment increase.

“But we haven’t really had a lot of challenges with the economic downturn,” Cresswell said.

Over half of the $2.3 million property tax levy for 2012 the village takes in goes to two sources: the regional district and the school district. The regional district leads the way with a $690,412 grab — around 30 per cent — while 25 per cent of the tax bill will be for the school district, with around $561,935 collected,

General taxation for the village sits third at 21.5 per cent of the bill ($490,927), with the water parcel tax accounting for 14.8 per cent ($338,850) and policing coming in at three per cent ($70,497).

The sewer parcel tax ($64,928), regional hospital ($46,491), the BC Assessment Authority ($12,819) and the Municipal Finance Authority ($40) round out the rest of the takers.

Who provides the services?

The village shares the cost of providing a lot of the services Fruitvale residents enjoy with the regional district, since the financial benefit of servicing on a bigger scale is advantageous.

Water treatment, the cemetery, recreation, regional parks and trails are all shared services with the regional district. Regional costs are determined through the village’s regional director, with the village’s share of the overall costs requisitioned from the village.

This year the regional district requisition rises by .2 per cent, or $1.74 of the average tax bill, from $751.14 to $752.88.

The village provides services in the areas of transportation — snow plowing, clearing, road repair — health and safety, garbage collection, sewer and protective services (bylaw enforcement and building inspection).