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UPDATE: Nanaimo council sets property tax rate increase

Nanaimo's residential tax rate is creeping up again.

City council officially adopted the 2012 tax rate bylaw Monday, setting the city portion of the property tax rate increase at 3.9 per cent for residential, 2.9 per cent for commercial and an 18.5-per cent reduction for industrial.

Water rates increased five per cent at the beginning of the year. There was no increase in sewer rates, though garbage service increased $7, up 6.1 per cent for Nanaimo residents.

Those increases mean the average $350,000 residential property would see about a $90 increase for 2012. However, there is the possibility that because of generally lower assessments, some might actually see a slight decrease in their property tax bill.

"For an average $350,000 house that saw a five-per cent decrease in their assessment from last year, there could be a one-per cent decrease in the city's portion of property taxes this year," said Brian Clemens, director of finance for the city. "Now with that said, there are about 30,000 residential properties in Nanaimo and very few are perfectly average. There are a lot of variables that go into setting individual rates."

A property tax estimator, which requires 2011 and 2012 assessment numbers, is available at www.nanaimo.ca.

Property taxes are expected to raise $160 million in revenue for the city. Of that, $118.9 million will go toward operational expenditures, while $41 million will be used as capital expenditures.

Police and fire services continue to represent a significant part of the city's overall budget.

Between the first and second drafts of the budget, police services increased about $675,000 to $24.2 million due to increased staffing and a federally appointed pay raise for RCMP members, resulting in police costs accounting for 25 per cent of the total operating budget. At $12.5 million, fire services uses 16 per cent.

Clemens said those increases would have resulted in a significantly higher tax rate increase, but council's decision to use $2 million from reserves instead of borrowing for the new city annex brought it back down.

"It changed fairly radically in both directions, but resulted in a fairly small change overall," said Clemens.

Residential and commercial rates were originally targeted to be four-per cent and 3.2-per cent increases respectively.

The industrial tax rate reduction is part of council's four-year strategy to shift industrial rates to residential. Industrial rates will decrease about 16 per cent again for 2013 before coming back in line with residential and commercial rates in 2014 at a three-per cent increase.

About 60 per cent of property tax collected goes to the city while the balance goes to other services such as the Regional District of Nanaimo, school district, Nanaimo Regional Hospital District, libraries and B.C. Assessment.

Property taxes are due July 3.

reporter2@nanaimobulletin.com

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