Taxes for residents in the District of Kent will be going up 3.66 per cent this year, as the district finishes taking on higher police costs and begins putting more money into reserves.
On Monday (March 11), district staff presented the five-year financial plan for council approval, after two open houses in early March.
Of the 3.66 per cent tax increase, 0.71 percentage points comes from increased policing costs. According to director of finance Judy Lewis, this is part of a cost increase from 2009, when the district’s population grew to over 5,000 people and the district became responsible for 70 per cent of the local RCMP costs. The district has been phasing in the increased cost over the last 10 years.
The drainage contribution makes up 0.26 percentage points of the 3.66 per cent increase; one percentage point of the tax increase is so the district can increase its transfers to the reserves, which will allow them to have more money set aside for future capital projects.
The remaining 1.69 percentage points is for general operating cost increases, such as insurance.
For the average homeowner, this tax increase will mean around an extra $50 in property taxes. (The average home in Kent was assessed at around $441,685 in 2018.)
Only 51 per cent of Kent’s taxes are paid by residential homeowners, although they make up 90 per cent of the tax base. Just over 30 per cent of taxes are paid by pipelines in the district and CP Rail. The remainder is paid by light industrial, commercial and farm properties.
Homeowners will also see a two per cent increase for water and sewer rates in 2019; these rates will be revisited as part of the three-year bylaw review for 2020.
The financial plan has also included money to bring the municipal water system to all parts of the Agassiz townsite in five phases over the next five years— however, this would be dependent on grant funding.
“We, like Harrison and other small communities, are quite reliant on grant funding,” Lewis said during the financial plan open house at the beginning of March. “When we get grant funding, we complete projects we wouldn’t be able to do otherwise.”
Because of this, many of the capital projects in the financial plan aren’t guaranteed, Lewis explained. Things like the indoor aquatic centre and water service expansion are tied to grant applications that haven’t been awarded yet. Other projects, like a new fire station on Mount Woodside, are in the financial plan as wish-list items, in case grant funding does become available.
However, not everything is a wish-list item: construction work on Sutherland Road, a new playground at Pioneer Park and the Hammersly pump station upgrade are all guaranteed projects for the coming years.