The District of Highlands has approved its 2023-2027 financial plan and residents can expect to see a larger-than-usual tax increase for 2023.
The budget – approved unanimously at Monday’s (April 17) regular council meeting – features a 4.9-per-cent tax increase for residents. That’s up from the three-per-cent tax increase the district has targeted and met for the past several years.
“With the increases in the library budget and the West Shore Parks and Recreation budget increase, we found we had to make an exception this year, and landed at a 4.9-per-cent increase,” said Mayor Ken Williams. “Beyond that, we are just continuing with our strategic priorities. Our local area plan, secondary suites and asset management goals. We have our organizational review in our budget, and there is a bit of an upgrade to the Caleb Pike Heritage Park. One of the buildings is a replication of one of the original pioneer houses and it will be getting a little bit of work done to it.”
Williams said 3.9 per cent of the tax lift is in general municipal and fire taxes, while the remaining one per cent is in asset management, which includes contributions to the district’s financial reserves.
He said the higher than usual tax lift for 2023 is expected to be a one-time burden on tax payers, with council aiming to return the lift to three per cent in next year’s budget, should the economic climate allow.
While the budget overall continues the district’s trend and goal of keeping things affordable for its 2,482 residents, Williams said snow removal costs for the district’s public works contractor were higher this past winter, further contributing to the need for a higher-than-normal tax lift.
The budget outlines $2,909,900 in operating expenses for the district, with $1,093,200 of that going toward general government services, $568,400 to protective services, $524,300 to transportation services, $273,700 to planning services, and $450,300 to recreation and cultural services.
Several capital projects make up $932,000 in spending, all funded from the district’s reserves, including $100,000 for an expanded fire department training facility, $60,000 for a new generator for the department’s east fire hall and $75,000 worth of culvert work for their west fire hall.
Road topping has a budgeted $280,000, while general culvert work has $240,000 in budgeted funds.
”We’re maintaining our service levels and keeping our operating costs in check. But we are in an environment with higher than usual inflation right. We are making sound fiscal choices and are reflecting community priorities,” said Williams.