The City of Cranbrook is proposing a 2.88% tax increase in 2020, which includes the annual 1% dedicated road tax.
Cranbrook City Council approved the recommendation from staff after deliberations, leading staff to now draft the tax rate bylaw for three readings and adoption at their next City Council meeting on May 11th.
According to the City, residential properties will carry about 61% of the municipal tax burden this year, while businesses will account for about 36%.
“This is a very long process that we started probably last July and all things are considered,” Mayor Lee Pratt told MyEastKootenayNow.com. “We feel pretty good about the 2.88% increase because inflation is 2% and everybody’s electricity and gas bills go up likewise with the City. We’ve maintained a pretty good rate on the taxes, we’re quite happy with that.”
Pratt said they look at the tax burden differential every year between residential and commercial and felt it was on par with recent years.
The 2.88% municipal tax increase would translate to a $64 increase for the average residential property with an assessed value of $320,000.
Pratt told MyEastKootenayNow.com that the tax rate is manageable, given that they will continue to take the 1% for the 2020 Capital Works Program.
“Let’s be honest, our infrastructure in Cranbrook with our roads and our sewer and water lines and that was in terrible condition and it’s going to take a while to catch up on that. That’s why the 1% dedicated road tax is in there, and it will continue to be in there going forward until we get caught up on a lot of that deficiency.”
In total, the City is anticipating to collect about $28.4-million in municipal taxes, $2.5-million of which is dedicated to the roads. According to Council documents, tax revenue will account for 39% of the required funds to operate the City, as the 2020 budget totals $72.9-million.
More: 2020 Municipal Tax Rates (City of Cranbrook)
When asked if the City explored the potential of a 0% tax increase like some other municipalities are now implementing, Pratt said they wanted to ensure they maintained all levels of service in the community.
“That 2.88% increase, it’s not a huge amount of money to any of the taxpayers, whether it be commercial or residential and we do have a City to run, we have essential services that we have to provide,” said Pratt. “A 0% increase, sometimes you might have to look at dropping some of those essential services, which we don’t want to do. We want to maintain the City, make sure the water and the sewer and the safety of the community is provided.”
Read: City of Fernie Launches Public Survey for 2020 Budget (April 27, 2020)
Pratt told MyEastKootenayNow.com that they are concerned about revenues during the COVID-19 pandemic, seeing as Western Financial Place remains closed, along with the swimming pools and other sports venues. Anticipating, those impacts will have a bigger effect on their 2021 budget, Pratt said it is still top of mind.
“The Five Year Plan, of course, is a work in progress and it’s subject to change, it always changes. We never can plan five years ahead on the mark, but it does give us some guidelines. Next year, we’re already concerned with what our revenues are going to be next year and we’ve already taken some steps.”
Those steps include the deferral of $7.3-million in projects from the 2020 budget and pushing them back to 2021, which was announced by the City on Wednesday.
Read: Cranbrook City Council Deferring $7.3-Million in Projects (April 29, 2020)
Pratt said City Council deliberated about keeping the tax increase the same as when they adopted the 2020-2024 Financial Plan on January 27th.
“There was a lot of consideration given to whether or not we propose the tax increase as it was but we felt going forward this year that it’s not going to be too detrimental to anybody.”
Keeping a close eye on their budget figures, Pratt said they will definitely be looking at next year’s tax situation, noting they should begin 2021 budget discussion in the next four to six weeks.