Trail taxpayers got a reprieve last year due to the onset of the pandemic, but the city will make up for it this year.
After no tax increase in 2020, Trail council proceeded with three readings of the 2021-25 Financial Plan Bylaw and then adopted it, giving approval to a 3.99 per cent increase in Trail property tax for 2021.
“The increase was determined by first looking at our operating budget and taking care of our general administration needs,” said Trail Mayor Lisa Pasin. “Then we moved to capital and what we did was segregated our capital into two segments, first was priority projects that needed to be done, and second were still important but more secondary projects that needed tender.”
The number is not final however, as Chief Administrative Officer David Perehudoff explains.
“The average residential assessed home in Trail for 2021 based on the BC Assessment Roll is $250,045 up 10.42 per cent from 2020 … these are property taxes levied by the City of Trail only. We do not yet have 2021 Provincial School Tax rates, so the overall change in property taxes still can’t be calculated.”
The city’s total taxation comes to $15,861,900 an increase of $574,200 from 2020. This includes the 3.99 per cent increase in general property taxes or $583,350, in addition to utility taxes, local improvement, and water parcel tax.
“When looking at the projects and assessing the general tolerance of the taxpayer it was felt that coming in under four per cent was appropriate for this year,” said the mayor. “So we looked at 3.99 per cent which just, just took care of the basics that we needed and the priority capital projects.”
Based on the average price of a Trail home ($250,045) without the school tax, property taxes come in at $1,339.37 compared to $1,284.01 last year, a difference of $55.36 or 4.31 per cent. A home assessed at $350,000 would pay $1,690.41 in city taxes.
The most significant expense to the city in 2020 came from a $301,900 transfer in 2020 from the city’s surplus to offset the revenue “lost” from the net-zero tax hike in 2020. This number accounts for 51 per cent of the increase in property taxes in 2021.
“The 2021 Budget therefore reflects adjustments that are necessary to effectively “reset” the budget and as part of recapturing some of the revenue lost,” read the CAO’s report.
Trail received over $2M in federal and provincial government COVID relief funding that helped buffer the city’s bottom line, but resuming capital projects and restarting those that were postponed will cost more this year.
Any extra COVID relief funding will go into general revenue and be used to cover shortfalls in operations and/or show up as a surplus at the end of the year.
With COVID cases and its variants increasing in the province, pandemic fatigue and mental health illness are at their height, so the Times asked the mayor if council considered that a tax hike would only add to that malaise?
“Last year when we had a zero per cent tax increase we actually cancelled over $1M in capital projects,” said Pasin. “Last year was a difficult year for cities that either made the decision to go at zero per cent because it really put you behind or for those who chose to do a tax increase which was potentially seen as a burden, the reality is it’s not sustainable to do anything close to zero per cent year over year, cities need to operate.”
In a normal year, staff would make a more formal presentation of the Financial Plan to council and the public. This year the plan was fast tracked in accordance with COVID emergency order M192, which allows council to consider all three readings of a financial plan and amend or adopt the motion on the same day.
“With the Covid-19 situation remaining very fluid, it was felt that having these bylaws fully approved was in the City’s best interest as part of utilizing this authority,” said Perehudoff.
Last year, council also offered relief for late payment, extending the deadline to August 31 from the traditional deadline of July 2. However, an extension has yet to be determined this year, but Mayor Pasin said council awaits direction from the province regarding late payments, and thanks the community for their resilience.
“I think we’ve done quite well as far as the safety of the community is concerned,” said Pasin. “Thank you for your ongoing patience as we move through these restrictions and openings, thank you everyone for doing their best.”