'Nobody is happy': Lake Country taxpayers faced with 17% increase this year

Property taxes to jump 17%

Lake Country taxpayers knew they would be faced with a large tax increase this year, now, they know the extent of that increase.

Faced with what new mayor Blair Ireland called three bad options, council Tuesday gave first reading to a 17.05 per cent property tax increase in the 2023 budget.

For the most part, the budget includes most of what was included in the preliminary report with the exception of adding an extra RCMP officer.

That new officer, required to get the municipality from 18 to 24 members by 2027, will be added down the road.

The budget includes 7.08 per cent to satisfy new RCMP requirements, 5.75 per cent in operations to keep the current level of service and 4.22 per cent for supplemental funding needed to move the district forward.

"We were choosing between a lot of bad choices. Nobody is happy we are doing this," Ireland told Castanet News.

"It's a difficult budget. We could have pushed the RCMP problem over several years and kicked the can down the road so to speak. We got the feedback of lets tackle the RCMP problem and get that done with so our community can move forward from there."

The RCMP increase came about after the municipality crossed the 15,000 population threshold during the last census, making it responsible for 90 per cent of policing costs as opposed to 70.

The municipality also faced a large increase in its road maintenance contract which it had to absorb just to maintain the present level of service.

"The options were few, either swallow that increase or you don't get your roads done."

Despite the projected increase, Ireland says the budget does not include an increase in the level of service.

Following first reading, council held a town hall forum to get feedback from the community.

Surprisingly, very few comments were aimed directly at council.

'We have tried to communicate these issues with the public and be as transparent as possible," said Ireland.

"We are not trying to hide behind this. We are all community members too, we pay taxes too."

A one per cent increase for the owner of an average home valued at $1.087 million works out to an extra $20 in tax.

At 17.05 per cent, that works out to approximately $340 more on the 2023 tax bill.

Council is expected to give final reading to the budget Feb. 23.

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