Peachland taxpayers are facing a 7.74 per cent tax increase, under a 2024 budget considered by council on Tuesday.
It could have been worse.
“We started at a double-digit figure and we pared it down,” financial director Garry Filafilo told council in a daytime meeting.
What was the double figure you started off with,” asked Mayor Patrick Van Minsel.
“Seventeen per cent,” answered Filafilo.
“So if we did everything that needed to be done, it was 17 per cent,” the mayor said.
Council started the budget session with a proposed 6.35 tax increase. After additions, subtractions and changing sources of funding, the owner of an typical $902,700 property will face a $120 tax increase next year.
Some parcel taxes have been moved into the general taxation category, the budget shows
The final tax hike still must be set. Police, transit and taxes from other local governing bodies have not been determined. A public open house on the $16-million budget will be held in February. The final budget must be submitted to the province by May 15. Tax notices go out to landowners in June.
Councillors were concerned the municipality was relying too much on reserve funds to pay for needed projects in an effort to keep tax increases down.
“There is $187,000 of reserve withdrawals, which would constitute probably a four per cent additional tax increase. I don’t think we should be taking money out of reserves if it’s not for the purpose of the reserve,” said Coun. Rick Ingram.
The biggest reserve fund is the Growing Communities Fund. That money came from a $2.7-million grant the province provided earlier this year to be used on infrastructure projects over the next five years.
The budget listed several items that will be covered by the fund, including parks improvements, firefighting equipment, road repairs and a new website. Council added others, including pickleball courts, to the list. Council said it would help fund four new courts, if a new society can come up with matching funds.
Van Minsel said Peachland needs to start building its reserves. “If we do not do that, we will be in the same scenario as other municipalities are (that) have to increase their taxes suddenly.”
Osoyoos is the poster municipality for tax hikes this year with a proposed 39 per cent hike.
Peachland will need more tax revenue in the future to avoid draining reserve funds, council heard.
More development will help increase revenues, said administrator Joe Creron, noting several projects are in the pipeline.
Later, a motion to add $100,000 a year to the reserve funds was approved.
Van Minsel cautioned community groups that they should expect less from civic grants in the future.
“Civic grants were always intended to help a group start up and were never intended to sustain a group. So I informed most of them that during the next three years, this will not be phased out, but minimized,” he said.
The budget included $12,000 to extend the working season for the head lifeguard.