Pouce Council voted to raise taxes in the village about $2 per month for the average homeowner at Tuesday’s budget meeting.
The vote was not unanimous.
The topic originally came up for vote at the April 2 meeting, but with Councillor Barb Smith absent, council was deadlocked at 2-2 — Mayor Lorraine Michetti and Councillor Donna White for, and Councillors Marlene Hebert and Ken Drover against.
Smith was the deciding vote, in favour, at the April 16 meeting.
“We’ve got to be sustainable,” she said.
CAO Chris Leggett had recommended the increase in mill rate, saying that the Village needed 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.
As for cuts, Leggett said the Village has already made most of the cuts they can without reducing services. The positive financial effects of cuts are short-lived, anyways, as costs of operations rise year after year.
Council has been implementing increases to the mill rate over the last two years — a $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 said.
It should be noted that the $24 per year is an average tax increase, as the number is dependent on the mill rate. Residents with a higher than average property value will see a larger increase in their bill, while those with a lower than average value will see a lower increase.
And 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.
Hebert spoke strongly against the raise.
“Pouce Coupe has stayed relatively the same, other than businesses have left,” she said, noting the increases in taxes from many years ago.
“It impacts single mothers, working, trying to make a living, trying to buy groceries. If you’re paying $6 for celery, that’s a lot of money.”
When asked what cuts she’d be willing to do, Hebert noted garbage and recycling outside of Village boundaries and medical service calls by the fire department. (Both issues council noted they will have to take a look at in the future).
Drover indicated he was not in favour of an increase — or cuts to services — at this time.
“It’s something we’re going to have to do, but six months into the job, I’m not going to do it.”
Ultimately, the motion passed 3-2.
The move also sees class 6 business licences in Pouce increase by $25 per year on average — the mill rate had been cut over the years similar to the residential rates — as well as a new class 5 light industrial rate, as a class 6 property had been reclassified as class 5 by BC Assessment. The class 5 licence is 25% higher than the class 6 licence.