Property tax increase set at 2.98 per cent

The City of New Westminster draft budget for 2011 includes a 2.98 per cent property tax increase for homeowners.

That’s a fair bit less than city council’s original plan, which pegged the increase at 4.8 per cent, said Coun. Jonathan Cote.

“Between then and now there’s been further refinement,” he said. “Increased revenue from development, such as the Brewery District (in Sapperton), has been part of the adjustment.”

The 2.98 per cent increase means a strata property with an assessed value of $298,000 would pay $31 more this year in property tax, while a single-family home worth $621,000 would see their taxes go up $65. A high-end house assessed at $1.5 million would pay $153 more, said Gary Holowatiuk, director of finance and IT for the city.

BC Assessment revises home assessments every year, and the figures often fluctuate according to the market. Each year the city sets its tax rate accordingly to ensure it gets the revenue it needs, Holowatiuk said.

“We have to factor out market fluctuation from our tax rate to be fair to the public,” said Holowatiuk. “If we didn’t adjust our tax rate at the beginning of the year, people’s tax rate would go up even higher.”

Only one councillor, Coun. Betty McIntosh, voted against the 2.98 per cent increase, believing it could be lower.

“I felt we could reach two per cent,” she said, adding that there was a $1.8-million surplus from the 2010 tax year.

The surplus and money from increasing property taxes will go into the city’s capital reserves and towards infrastructure that needs to be addressed, said McIntosh.

“But I look at individual property owners and believe they must have benefits from our development,” she said.

There are only so many areas the city can cut back in, however, according to other council members.

“You can’t just say a number and say that’s what I want it to be,” said Coun. Lorrie Williams. “You need to see what you have to cut. You have to deal with realities.”

A 2.98 per cent increase is still good, she added.

“We’re certainly below 3 per cent, one of the lower ones in the Metro Vancouver area,” said Williams.

Later in the year we can revisit the budget and see if there are other areas spending can be reduced, she said.

While the 2011-2015 financial plan still has to go to public consultation, councillors believe it will be accepted and move onto further readings.

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