Lantzville residents will see an increase in property taxes next year, but the exact amount could be lower than first thought.
During a council meeting on Monday, Dec. 10, Lantzville councillors voted unanimously to pass the district’s 2019-2023 financial plan bylaw, resulting in property taxes increasing by 5.6 per cent next year.
However, following adoption of the financial plan, councillors agreed to vote on a proposed motion, which calls for changes to the funding source of two items within the budget, at a council meeting on Jan. 14.
Brought forward by Coun. Karen Proctor, the proposed motion requests that the funding source for $15,000 allocated for fire services and $17,500 allocated for services be changed from taxation to surplus. If approved, the change would result in property taxes decreasing from 5.6 per cent to 3.9 per cent.
“If we move these two items back into being funded from surplus instead of taxation, we change the tax increase by almost two per cent,” Proctor told councillors. “So the tax levy would move from 5.62 per cent to 3.9 per cent. This was the way the staff had originally advised us to budget the resources but they had also told us to keep an eye on the surplus and what we use it for.”
Proctor said while she felt councillors did a great job going through the budget, she also felt that there was an opportunity to reduce how much money was being taken from surplus to fund initiatives within the budget.
“I think we did a really admirable job on the budget; however, upon reflection, I decided that we really hadn’t given enough thought to what monies we take out of surplus and what we don’t,” she said.
Proctor said previous councils had raided the district’s surplus fund and with incoming development, the current council has an opportunity to capitalize on increased revenues and add to surplus at the same time.
“In past councils the surplus has been depleted. I think that we have a big opportunity on our hands with all the coming development and that we will be able to take advantage of increased revenues on a yearly basis in the future,” she said. “So, it seems shame to me to increase taxes by almost two per cent at this point when we probably won’t need to increase taxes in the future and we will also be able to add to surplus.”
Coun. Will Geselbracht said although he was supportive of Proctor’s proposed motion, he was doubtful of the idea that councillors won’t need to raise taxes in the future, adding that the district went through a 15-year “dry period” where infrastructure was inadequately replaced or repaired. He also said if residents want services, they should realize that tax increases are required at times.
“If we want services we have to pay the taxes,” he said. “Sometimes, it is a tax increase. So, I won’t be quite as optimistic as Coun. Proctor but I will support the motion.”
Lantzville Mayor Mark Swain said the proposed motion is “interesting” but that he struggles with the idea of funding items from surplus, adding that the district’s surplus is something that “slowly grows” and cannot be “artificially” created. He said he doesn’t want to see council continue to fund spending by using surplus.
“What I have noticed is that our spending is going up and it would mean softening that spending by going to surplus and I think we have to reflect upon what our true taxation is here in Lantzville,” Swain said. “That’s maybe not the most popular thing to do but trying to soften down a percentage and a half; I don’t know if it is necessarily the best thing to do.”
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram