Colwood reins in tax hike

  • Jun. 1, 2011 12:00 p.m.

Small increases the new norm, says mayor

Colwood’s municipal taxes have crept up about 2.8 per cent, but in dollars and cents most homeowners won’t pay more than last year.

In 2010, Colwood homeowners paid an average $1,370 in municipal tax, based on a home assessment of $474,000.

Colwood planned its new budget so this year’s average property, assessed at $498,000 — a five per cent increase in value — will continue to only pay $1,370 in taxes.

“Obviously we can’t say nobody will see an increase, because there’s always variation in assessed value,” explained acting director of finance Jennifer Reed. “People whose homes increased more than five per cent will pay more.”

But after the last two years of steep tax increases — a 16 per cent hike in 2009 and nine per cent last year — Colwood is finally seeing some relief.

Mayor Dave Saunders says lower tax increases in the municipality are expected to become the new normal.

“After some tough years, we have our financial house in order,” he said. “It’s only going to improve from here.”

The previous years’ increases came after the 243-hectare industrial land in Royal Bay was reclassified as residential and commercial, leaving a $1.2 million hole in the City budget.

Since then the City has rezoned many properties to avoid a similar disaster. Land in the core with potential for high density development has been zoned as such, so it’s assessed at a higher value and contributes more to the city’s budget.

Saunders is also working towards getting more out of federally-owned properties, including Royal Roads University and Department of National Defense land in Belmont Park, where the government offers payment in lieu of tax.

“We need to make sure the payment is in line with what other municipalities get,” Saunders said. “Right now we don’t think we’re getting a fair amount, and we’ve started the process of challenging that.”

Colwood’s overall 2011 budget is $13.5 million, and includes payments into reserves which weren’t made in previous years. As well, the City is investing more in it’s fire station for equipment upgrades and to hire a full-time assistant fire chief.

The amount budgeted for grants to community groups was cut in half. But contributions were still made to two crisis helplines, veterans housing at Cockrell House, Volunteer Victoria and for organizing Canada Day celebrations.

The budget also includes $8,800 to cover the City’s cost of the Solar Colwood project, including debt interest and non-refundable portions of sales tax.

“We took a hard line to keep down new costs. Like other levels of governments we had to cut back grants, and many departments didn’t get the staffing increases they requested,” Saunders said. “That will change as the economy rebounds.”

Property tax payments are due July 4. Late payments will be subject to a 10 per cent penalty.

If you have not received your property tax notice in the mail, contact the City’s finance department at 250-478-5999.



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