Tax rate increase set, Home Owner Grant increased

Nanaimo city council established the 2011 tax rate increase for property owners Monday night, voting for an overall 2.5-per cent rate increase, while residential property tax owners will see a 3.6-per cent tax rate increase.

Commercial property rates will increase 2.5 per cent, while industrial properties will see an 18-per cent decrease as part of a tax shift that will be completed by 2013.

Brian Clemens, director of finance for the City of Nanaimo, said those changes will result in an increase of $62.29 for the average homeowner with a $350,000 assessment.

"Once you factor in additional taxes for the school district, Regional District of Nanaimo, Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, Vancouver Island Regional Library, Municipal Finance Authority and B.C. Assessment, the whole increase will come to $83.10," said Clemens.

Nanaimo residents can also expect an increase of 2.5 per cent for water services to help pay for a new $65-million water treatment plant and 1.8 per cent in garbage and recycling fees.

But it's not all bad news.

Clemens said the province has stepped up its Home Owner Grant program for people in northern and rural communities (residents outside the Greater Vancouver Area, Capital Region District and Fraser Valley Regional District) who qualify with an additional $200 over last year's grant amounts.

That means homeowners who qualify for a regular grant will receive $770 this year instead of $570, and seniors 65 years and older who qualify will receive $1,045 instead of $845. People who own homes worth $1.15 million or more will see corresponding decreases in their grant values as their assessment increases.

"For people who qualify for the grant, that means most residential property owners in Nanaimo will pay between five and six per cent less property tax than they did in 2010," said Clemens. "That came as a surprise and I think most people would say it's a positive surprise."

Municipalities have until Sunday (May 15) under provincial law to adopt their respective 2011 tax rate bylaws.

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