Ashcroft Council agreed to include a 22 per cent tax increase in their Five Year Financial Plan at their Apr. 11 meeting.
But not without some opposition from Coun. Helen Kormendy.
Council approved a two per cent increase for all assessment categories, plus a 20 per cent tax increase for all assessment classifications to fund capital projects.
The 20 per cent increase will appear as a separate line item on the property tax notice and will be titled “Capital Asset Reserve.” The funds raised under this levy will be transferred to the Capital Works Reserve Fund each year and will only be used for capital purchases. Removing money from this Fund will require a motion of Council or the inclusion in the Five Year Financial Plan.
Ashcroft’s Five Year Financial Plan still has to be approved by Council.
“I believe a 22 per cent tax increase is too high for our village,” said Coun. Kormendy. She likened it to “robbing Peter to pay Paul,” referring to the Council’s hope that the provincial Homeowner’s Grant will offset most of the tax increase.
“Twenty-two per cent for someone on a fixed income, with a family, is very difficult,” said Kormendy. “Why would we want to do this at this time?”
“Our reserves are in good condition. We’re not broke.”
Coun. Alice Durksen said it concerned her that the Village doesn’t have the funds to pay for infrastructure improvements like street paving.
“Yes we have reserves,” she said, “but we don’t have reserves for our infrastructure.”
“We have healthy reserves,” said Kormendy, adding that the province hasn’t mandated the Tangible Capital Asset funding yet, which calls for municipalities to build up their own capital to cover repair and replacement of their own infrastructure.
She wanted the Village to raise the taxes gradually “and have real figures to show people.”
Treasurer Natalie Aalderink noted that it would take the Village 20 years of collecting taxes for the Capital Works Reserve Fund just to fix Tingley St.
Mayor Andy Anderson said he was prepared for “a major backlash” from the public last week when The Journal reported a possible 37 per cent increase, and was surprised when it didn’t come.
He compared the tax increase to saving money for the downpayment on a car to replace the old, worn out one.
“I think the people know about the increase,” he said, “and have accepted that we need to put aside money to fix our infrastructure. We need to replace that car that’s wore down to next to nothing.”
“I, too feel it’s something that needs to be done,” said Coun. Colin Williams. “It’s like buying insurance and we don’t have insurance right now.”
Kormendy voted against the increase. Coun. Jerry Fiddick was absent from the meeting