City of Powell River Council has passed its five-year financial plan bylaw and annual property tax rates bylaw for 2019.
At a special meeting of city council on Monday, May 13, council set in motion the budget for the coming year.
In speaking to the tax rates bylaw, councillor George Doubt, chair of the city’s finance committee, said it is becoming more difficult to maintain the level of services in the community while keeping tax increases as low as possible.
While in recent years council has tried to tie the tax increase to the rate of inflation, this year, the city has not been able to do so.
“It’s slightly higher than that,” said Doubt. “My taxes look like they are going to be about 4.9 per cent higher than they were last year.
“We need to think about what the city is going to do in the next few years in dealing with that. We’ve worked as hard as we can to cut costs and keep taxes low.”
Doubt said the city is going to talk to residents of Powell River about what they are willing to pay for the services the city has.
“The city has great services and I think a lot of the taxpayers are happy to have them,” said Doubt. “I want to comment while we are hopefully passing this bylaw that we have a lot of work to do over the next 12 months.”
Doubt said the goal is to make taxes reasonable for the services that residents receive.
Mayor Dave Formosa said he agreed with Doubt’s comments.
He said council has been dealing with fact the tax increases are above the cost of living this year.
The city, for next year’s budget, will be looking at all of the services the city provides and all of the costs the city is aware that are coming, such as dealing with aging infrastructure.
The mayor said he is looking at the establishment of a select committee, bringing the community into the budgetary process.
“I’ve been here for 11 years and we’ve been cutting for 11 years,” said Formosa. “Last year we looked seriously at cutting out some of the services from the recreation complex. We had quite an outcry from the community. It gave us the confidence to carry forward and continue to provide the services that people really want.”
The city has to face the current reality, and through consultations and communication, come up with a plan to move forward, said Formosa.
There are some things on the horizon, he added, and the city has had some revenue increases over the last number of years through expansion of housing and other factors.
“It does help growth when we get new projects, especially multifamily ones,” said Formosa. “Chasing revenue will also be part of our plan.”
Council voted unanimously in favour of the adoption of both bylaws.