New Trail council establishes first budget

Average property tax up $43

In the City of Trail, property taxes, not industrial taxes, are the primary source of revenue.

Since 2008, the city’s dependency on the annual municipal levy increased over 17 per cent – which leads to the news that homeowners can expect a 3.6 per cent hike, or $4.70 more each month to balance this year’s budget.

The school tax rate hasn’t been confirmed, but assuming it stays constant, based on an average residential dwelling valued at $183,000, gross taxes are estimated at $2116 before the homeowner grant.

Taking the annual grant into account, which remains $770 for eligible residents under 65, and $1,045 for those over 65, the average residential property owner will pay $1346 or $112.17 monthly and seniors $1071 or $89.25 per month.

With the increase, Trail taxpayers may be wondering what’s in it for them.

While the upcoming visual – bridge construction – won’t affect property taxes, new amenities attached to it will. Those include a $500,000 secondary water line and fibre optic conduit that can carry broadband to the East Trail business district.

The modern upgrades, plus other pricey projects include $160,000 in IT enhancements, $450,000 for a new roof at the Trail Aquatic and Leisure Centre, $160,000 for fuel tanks and cameras at the Trail airport, new streetlighting for $170,000 and $96,000 for downtown improvements, not yet itemized.

According to Trail Mayor Mike Martin, the four-month budgetary process was an eye-opener and gave council the opportunity to question all levels of revenue and expenditures.

“The complexity of running a city soon became evident,” explained the first-term mayor.

“It is really a bottom up approach with department heads and staff pulling together in late 2014 what they believed was a realistic budget for 2015.”

Martin said three major components were considered independently before a reality check came into play alongside considerations of the overall impact to taxpayers.

Utility rates (sewer, water and garbage), operating components such as general government and protective services, plus revenue streams like business licence and permit fees, are considered in detail as each category provides opportunities to offset the direct impact on taxpayers.

“Our approach was to look for efficiencies in the operating areas, improved revenue stream opportunities and evaluating the capital demands required to sustain our infrastructure,” he added.

The budget is long term and sustainable, Martin maintains, in that operating costs are controlled and capital spending was enhanced proactively to maintain the city’s infrastructure.

Last year, Trail taxpayers caught a break with the levy remaining static after regional services for economic development and the airport shifted, leading to a drop in revenue owed to the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB).

That’s not the case this year, with Trail paying $4.35 million for RDKB services compared to $4.23 in 2014.

Overall that means the average homeowner will pay $496 for regional services compared to $481 last year, which is a 3.5 per cent increase.

Trail pays a different percentage for services depending on the participants, explained David Perehudoff, the city’s chief adminstrative officer. For East End services, the city will pay just over 43 per cent, or $2.48 million compared to $2.35 million in 2014.

He said the largest east end service is fire, which will cost the city $1.4 million this year, on the total RDKB requisition of $3.25 million.

According to the CAO, Trail’s 2015 budget is positive and geared to the future because while maintaining a reasonable level of overall property tax increase, council managed to reduce operating expense increases and redirect savings towards capital funding.

Additionally, general revenues to pay for capital expenses is up about 22 per cent or $2.12 million compared to $1.74 million in 2014.

“This positions the city going forward given the significant increase in the base level of capital funding,” Perehudoff said. “Along with the fact that draws from reserves to fund capital have almost been totally eliminated.”