Residents living within the boundaries of the District of Lantzville are facing the possibility of a property tax hike next year.
Lantzville councillors approved Monday the first three readings of the district’s 2018-2022 financial plan, which includes a 5.4-per cent property tax increase next year.
In the past, Lantzville has undertaken its financial planning process in the first quarter of the year. However, councillors and staff undertook budget planning throughout October and into November and will vote on adopting next year’s budget in December.
Lantzville’s 2018 budget forecasts $7.9 million in total revenue, with $1.9 million coming from property taxes, while $4.2 million has been allocated to cover district expenses for the year. The district is budgeting for a surplus of $3.7 million.
Contributing to the potential 5.4 per cent tax hike is the district’s increased legal budget of $65,000 for next year, as well as an increase in administrative staffing hours.
When it comes to expenses, the yet-to-be approved budget includes a $3 million capital expenditure for Phase 3 sewer, $1.78 million for Aulds Road reservoir replacement, $343,900 for water main replacement on Lantzville Road and $142,000 for Huddlestone Park upgrades.
The district is also allocating $70,000 for economic development and branding, $30,000 to install a new phone system, $45,000 to conduct a service capacity review, $15,000 to upgrade the district’s website, and other expenses. It also includes $111,720, which will be used to pay the salary of district’s deputy director of financial services for another year.
During Monday’s meeting, Lantzville Mayor Colin Haime said the district relies on revenue through the taxation of residents, many of whom are living on a fix-income and are being taxed enough from other levels of government. He said he couldn’t support the budget or a 5.4-per cent hike and questioned how the residents would be benefiting from such an increase.
“If we were providing a whole new basket of services, residents may be able to accept it, but there is no new basket of services,” Haime said. “When it comes to the value-added to the existing resident, where is it?”
Coun. Will Geselbracht said all is not doom and gloom when it comes to the budget, explaining that while the proposed tax increase is more than he would prefer, the community is moving ahead by providing much-needed services, which ultimately cost money. He said one aspect of the budget he would not want to see repeated in future budgets is legal expenses.
Coun. Denise Haime said she couldn’t support a budget that included such a high tax increase, citing inflation.
“It is well above inflation. It is well above what most people are receiving as wage increases, pension increases, cost-of-living increases, I just think it is higher than most municipalities … there are just too many things on the wish list that we could put out over a longer period of time to bring that [tax rate] down,” she said.
Coun. Bob Colclough said when it comes to taxation per capita, Lantzville ranks among the lowest for communities with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants.
“Lantzville is fifth from the bottom at $493 per capita versus the top [municipality] which is $5,709 per capita,” Colclough said, adding that while it is important to be extremely careful about budgeting, Lantzville’s tax rates are not as high as people might believe.
Coun. Mark Swain said he enjoys the services and amenities that are paid for through taxation in Lantzville. He said Lantzville residents get the benefits of using Nanaimo facilities while living in a community with low taxes.
“I feel like the level of service that we have at our fingertips here in Lantzville is great. We get good value for our tax dollars and I know how much money I save living in Lantzville,” he said.
Coun. John Coulson said Lantzville has a problem with spending and needs to rein in its expenses and therefore could not support the proposed budget. He said he isn’t as fixated on what the district’s “absolute” tax rate is, but is more concerned about the ongoing trend of rising taxes and spending.
“Last year was around a six per cent tax increase [sic], this year we are looking at a 5.42 [per cent], all in all having spent about $900,000 out of surplus. We have a spending problem and we have got to get a handle on this, so I cannot support this budget,” he said.
Lantzville resident’s property taxes increased by 4.29 per cent last year. Lantzville councillors voted 4-3 on all three readings of the financial plan bylaw and will vote on its adoption on Dec. 11.