Tax rates will be going up in Harrison Hot Springs, but council and staff are hoping to get the message across that it’s not necessarily a tax increase.
A preliminary budget meeting was held on Tuesday morning, where Dale Courtice, financial officer for the Village, delivered the news that there is a deficit in the budget of almost $63,000.
There are two ways to bring the balance back into the black, he told council. The first would be to set aside plans for improvements to certain parks and recreation areas. Plans to put on hold for 2013 include a lamp structure at the lacrosse box, four picnic tables at Rendall Park, upgrades to the outdoor showers and additional porta-potties. They also decided to put off buying the equipment and storage containers for bocce ball and lawn bowling, “until we are in a better position to afford them,” Courtice said.
That would take care of $25,500, leaving a deficit of $37,400 to deal with.
Courtice rolled out three options for tax rate increases — which is not synonymous for tax increases — which would see different rates and ratios applied to residential, commercial and recreational/non-profit properties.
Tax assessments went down this year in Harrison Hot Springs, with the average single family home dropping from $336,500 to $318,500. While it’s one of the reasons the coffers are expected to be lower, it also gives a little room for the needed tax rate increase without hitting homeowners in the pocket book.
One of the three suggested formulas is equal to a $40 a year increase for an average single family dwelling.
One of the hits to the budget is the change back to the GST/PST system. The HST system was providing a rebate to municipalities that is now gone.
Coun. Allan Jackson is not in favour of deferring the parks improvements.
“You can’t put off your problems,” he said. “We can’t really defer maintenance. If you don’t do it today, it’s twice as much tomorrow.”
Coun. Sonja Reyerse stated she was not opposed to raising taxes a small amount, and said the Village should put their focus on the street scape plan and defer the parks improvements.
Coun. Zoltan Kiss suggested they look at leaving the Fraser Valley Regional Library system.
“We don’t have a library and we spend $50,000 to be in it,” he said. “That money is helping to buy books for the new Sardis library.”
Coun. Jackson was quick to point out the benefits of being a part of the FVRL system, and added that more Harrison residents use the Agassiz library than Agassiz residents do.
“Paying $55,000 a year for a library we don’t have to maintain is a really good deal,” he said.
Kiss then suggested the Village cut back on computer costs.
Council voted to look over the information provided over the next few days, and return to the budget table on Tuesday, Apr. 23 at 9 a.m., in another open public meeting.
A presentation by Courtice to the public is planned for May 1 at 7 p.m. at Harrison Memorial Hall.