Trail’s support to increase flat tax will impact seniors

Proposed flat tax would affect many on fixed income

On Feb 3, 2016  I wrote a letter to the Editor  “Time will tell on property tax bill”.

The time has come.  The majority of Trail council support doubling the flat tax on all homes from $ 130 to $ 260.  Voting against the motion as recorded in the minutes were Councillor Cacchioni and Dobie. The tax bylaws will probably be on April 25 council meeting for approval (agenda not available).  I was told a variable tax (mill rate only) was not considered as an option.

A flat tax was introduced in the provincial legislation for 1990 and 1991. The ten Municipalities that introduced flat taxes were allowed to keep them; however, no municipality could introduce a flat tax after 1992.  As of 2013, only five still used this tool; they are Dawson Creek, Kimberley, Kitimat, Powell River and Trail.  Only these five local governments of 155 in BC can still use a flat tax.

Trail’s flat tax was $115 in 1999 and increased to $130 in 2001.  I do not remember what the flat tax was for but that was around the time the New Water treatment plant was built.  I do remember that City staff many years back told the council of the day that the flat tax was at it’s max and could not be increased. Something must have changed.

Is the increase of the flat tax fair to everyone? The home owners whose houses decreased up to $30,000 and have to pay $130 more on the flat tax would not think so.

In my letter in February to the editor I only had 60 random properties in my spreadsheet and now I have 900.  Sixty two percent of those assessments decreased by a total of  $7 million and 38 per cent increased for a total of  $5.4 million. I am waiting for my property tax invoice to update the spreadsheet which will take minutes.  You probably are asking why am I doing this?

As a new director on the Society for Protection and Care of Seniors my role is to update the committee on financial issues that affect seniors.  I report back on what happens at the West Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital Board meetings and the final capital projects budget approved by the Interior Health Authority and WKBR Hospital Board.

The long-time members of the SPCS society do a remarkable job for seniors in this community and now have new executive members.

In closing, the majority of seniors, retirees and others on fixed incomes that have lived in their homes for a long time and now see their property decrease in value do not support doubling the flat tax.  In my opinion they will be affected the most.  Seniors also face increase utilities, medications, groceries, car and house insurance and transportation costs that they have to balance.

Once the tax notices are mailed out I will update my spreadsheet and will present my findings to the Society.

Fred Romano

Director of the SPCS