To raise them or to keep them where they’re at?
That’s the question Pouce Coupe council struggled with at last Tuesday’s budget meeting regarding municipal tax rates. With Councillor Barb Smith absent from the meeting, a vote on raising the mill rate stalled at 2-2, and will go for vote again at the next budget meeting on Tuesday, April 16.
CAO Chris Leggett recommended an increase in mill rate — that would see Pouce taxes go up by $2 per month for the average resident — saying the Village needs to create more revenue.
While property values have gone up on average from $54,708 in 1997 to $207,076 in 2018, the mill rate has actually gone down for residents from $6.17 per $1,000 in 1997 to $2.92 in 2018. This was done by councils in the past to keep taxes low.
“Good intentions have unintended consequences,” said Leggett in a presentation to council.
The business mill rate sees a similar trend, having been cut from $18.88 in 1997 to $7.0356 in 2018.
In 2018, the total tax levy was $336,216. It doesn’t cover the total department costs of over $1 million.
“We must focus on the revenue side of the equation if we are to ever meet our goal of being sustainable,” Leggett explained.
While budget cuts are the typically touted solution, Leggett notes with rising costs year after year, the positive effect is short-lived. As well, the Village has cut much of what can be cut over the last few years, without reducing services.
“We are operating at near rock bottom cost levels without reducing services,” he said.
The proposed increase would see $24 per year added to the average homeowner’s bill and $25 per year to the average business.
This is part of gradual increases to the mill rate proposed by Leggett. Council has been implementing increases to the mill rate over the last two years — $40 increase on average in 2018, and $36 in 2017.
“These increases are very modest on a dollar value basis, but necessary to remedy the inactions of the past and bring the Village closer to Council’s stated goal of self sustainability,” Leggett concluded.
While the Village’s tax rates have remained relatively low, other taxes Pouce residents pay — PRRD and school, for example — continue to rise, meaning a larger tax bill regardless. From 2012 to 2017, the school mill rate for Pouce residents was higher than the municipal mill rate.
Mayor Lorraine Michetti and Councillor Donna White voted in favour of the mill rate increase.
Councillors Ken Drover and Marlene Hebert were against.
Hebert noted the the high levels of taxes they have to pay compared to the 1990’s.
“What I would hate to see is you tax yourself right out of people,” she said.
Drover expressed reluctance to raise the tax rate as a new councillor, saying he wanted to get a better feel for the role before deciding on such a direction — whether that be raising taxes or suggesting to cut further.