Grants help keep tax increase at bay in Montrose

For the second time in three years, Montrose village residents will not see an increase to municipal taxes.

Add another reason to the list of why you should move to Montrose.

For the second time in three years village residents will not see an increase to municipal taxes.

Although final approval on the village’s $3.57-million budget will come May 7, it looks like the village of 1,100 will see a zero per cent increase from what was paid in 2011.

On Monday night council gave third reading to the financial plan bylaw, with a public meeting on the budget set for May 7, 6:45 p.m. as a prelude to council’s final vote on the matter.

A zero per cent increase wasn’t by accident, said Mayor Joe Danchuk. With some extra money coming from the province in the form of small community grants there was no reason to raise taxes since all other expenditures were accounted for, he said.

“It fulfills one of the promises I made when I ran in (October),” Danchuk said about not increasing taxes.

Montrose was allotted $210,504 in the first leg of the Strategic Community Investment Fund (SCIF) small community grants, an unconditional grant payment the province makes from its general revenues to municipalities across the province.

Overall, the village will get around $500,000 from the province in 2012, a sum that will help with the capital projects the village has planned.

“We are doing more capital projects this year and we couldn’t do them without this,” said village Chief Administrative Officer Kevin Chartres.

In addition, Montrose received nearly $1.3 million earlier this year from the federal Gas Tax Fund for water quality upgrades that include a creation of a chlorination facility and a replacement of a failing well.

“So when time comes for the projects like this we’re not taking a big hit, and the taxpayers taking the brunt of it,” Danchuk said.

The project will also include a back-up power source for the new well and a dedicated supply main in the village reservoirs, which will provide chlorine contact time to prevent bacteria and viruses from reaching water services throughout the village.

In Montrose, small community grant money goes into general revenue to offset staff wages (they don’t collect taxes specifically for wages), council expenses, benefits programs, legal costs, running the village office, public relations, elections and general public works.

But taxpayers in Montrose are not getting off scot-free from tax increases from other areas. The Regional District of Kootenay Boundary could be levying a one per cent tax increase this year to Montrose, although that final budget has yet to be delivered.

As well, the cost of utilities will be rising by two per cent, covering the costs of the collective bargaining agreement the village has with its staff.

This year is also the first year the village has formulated a strategic plan, setting out the next five years of operation ahead of time.

“And if there are grants to help small communities, we’ll be going after them,” Danchuk said. “We don’t have the tax base otherwise.”

If the new budget is adopted, the village will be putting $92,000 into the building machinery and equipment capital reserve, and $110,000 into the capital sewer reserve.