City property-tax hike set at 1.92%
Kamloops homeowners can expect to see an increase of more than $30 on their property-tax bills this year, after city council agreed to set the 2012 tax hike at 1.92 per cent.
The new rate means an increase of $31.43 for a home with an assessed value of $344,000, the city’s average.
While final vote on the new rate was unanimous, several councillors argued the increase should be about 2.5 per cent, as this year’s budget drew more than $3 million from last year’s surplus and city reserves to keep the increase down.
Councillors Tina Lange and Donovan Cavers argued a larger hike would have also given the city a cushion for some major projects in 2013.
“We’re doing really well this year and I think we have the opportunity to put a bit more away,” Cavers said.
The rest of council didn’t agree.
“I’m really comfortable,” Coun. Arjun Singh said. “I wanted two, two-and-a-half and I didn’t think I’d get it.”
Councillors cut more than $200,000 in supplementary items from the budget during their final deliberations, nixing a $100,000 parking study and boat launch upgrades for Thompson Drive and Pioneer Park, and deferring an $80,000 roof repair for the Kamloops Boys and Girls Club building on McArthur Island.
But, it was transit that dominated the talks, as councillors debated route upgrades that would extend bus service by another 8,200 hours.
While councillors Cavers and Nancy Bepple were in favour of picking up all the hours offered to the city by BC Transit, others argued the expansion would be too much, too fast.
“It’s doesn’t mean hundreds of people are suddenly going to start taking the bus,” Lange said. “This is a slow process and I believe we need to put those hours on slowly.”
Coun. Nelly Dever offered support for about half the hours, as did Mayor Peter Milobar.
Council agreed to remove 15-minute service on routes 1, 3, 7 and 9 for July and August and remove route 11, then use the cash and hours from those services to fix operational problems on routes 4, 7, 8 and 14.
The changes will require little new money.
Choosing between several blocks of new hours took more discussion, in part because one of the options — a 30-minute evening service for routes 1, 2 and 9, adding 4,200 new hours — would have blown Dever’s hours budget on its own.
However, Coun. Marg Spina argued the evening upgrade was crucial for the bus system’s most-likely users — minimum-wage workers without cars.
The evening expansion did pass, as did an extension of Sunday hours on the same three routes, with 30-minute service. Council also agreed to add another 2,500 hours of Handi-Dart service, but took a pass on two other options — service every 15 minutes on route 9 at midday and early-evening service for routes 10 and 16, which would have seen buses running until 7 p.m.
Overall, new hours — which start in September — will cost $150,000 for 2012 and increase to $305,000 the year after.
Other items of note that stayed in this year’s budget: $50,000 for consultants to review environmental data on the proposed Ajax mine; $150,000 for railings on stairs at Interior Savings Centre; $108,000 to create a position and cover operating costs of equipment to detect leaks in city pipes; and $10,000 for a produce-demonstration garden.
With the tax hike set, the final budget bylaw will be drafted over the next few weeks and must be passed by May 15, according to provincial legislation.
Fee hikes add to wallet drain
Though the average Kamloops homeowner will see about $30 added to their property-tax bill, other rate hikes more than double new taxpayer charges in 2012.
In addition to the property-tax hike of 1.92 per cent, Kamloops city council also agreed earlier in the budget process to raise charges for water and sewer services and recycling and garbage collection.
The fee hikes will see the average homeowner pay about $26 more for water, $12 more for sewer service and $16 more for garbage and recycling than they paid in 2011.