‘Policing costs’ budget approved with 3.9% tax hike

By on May 15, 2017
The budget must cover a doubling in policing costs as of April 1 because the population of Osoyoos surpassed 5,000 people in the 2016 census. (Richard McGuire file photo)

The budget must cover a doubling in policing costs as of April 1 because the population of Osoyoos surpassed 5,000 people in the 2016 census. (Richard McGuire file photo)

Despite a huge increase in policing costs, the average homeowner in Osoyoos will be paying just over $11 per month more in property taxes and user fees as Town of Osoyoos council officially approved its 2017 budget on Monday.

“The cost to an average single family residence with an assessment of $352,562 in 2017 … will be $138 and this includes taxes as well as water and user fees,” said Jim Zakall, the town’s director of financial services just before council voted unanimously to approve a 3.9 per cent tax increase.

Council had entered the 2017 budget process projecting a tax increase of 1.9 per cent, but that was increased by two per cent – to reach the 3.9 per cent increase approved Monday – to pay for the additional policing costs resulting from the town’s population officially exceeding 5,000 under the latest Canadian census results earlier this spring.

The 3.9 per cent tax increase will generate almost $91,000 in tax based revenue for the town and new construction property taxation an additional $41,000, said Zakall.

Budget highlights include:

• The Town of Osoyoos will begin paying for policing costs at 70 per cent due to the last census putting the population in excess of 5,000. The estimated annual RCMP costs will be $953,407, in which the town became responsible effective April 1. The town had to pay 75 per cent of those additional costs with a price of $715,000, an increase from $367,000 in 2016.

• Debt payments for the new fire hall will start in 2017 as borrowing has taken place and must be repaid by Town of Osoyoos property owners, the Osoyoos Rural Fire Protection District and Osoyoos Indian Band.

• Salaries and wages for town employees has increased by $179,000. Janitorial services for civic buildings, parks washrooms and Osoyoos landfill weigh station are now being performed by Canadian Union of Public Employees members. One salaried employee in finance was hired in June of 2016 and is fully budgeted for 2017.

• Garbage and recycling fees will increase 2.5 per cent to $130.10 from $126.93, while sewer rates will increase by $3.57 annually for owners of a single family residents to $241.44 in town and $334.44 in Area A of the Regiona District.

• Water rates will increase by $1.54 to $335.54 in town. The water fees for a town property is comprised of the user fee plus a parcel tax of $60.

• Water district fees will increase by $11.52 to $395.42 in town and three per cent to water district rates, including irrigation rates outside town.

• Policing costs will increase by $327,489 in 2017. Insurance costs will increase by $9,590 and grants in aid will increase by $10,000.

• The landfill budget will increase by $31,000 in 2017, while park wages will increase by $45,750 and debt charges will increase by $80,400 to account for the spring borrowing for the fire hall construction project. Only fall interest will be paid in 2017, while debt charges of $281,000 will be paid in 2018.

• General operating expenditures, less transfers, to other governments, reserves, resort municipality funding, contingencies and capital project expenditures will increase by $907,205 to $5,887,275 for 2017. This is an increase of more than 18 per cent, but policing costs account for more than 14 per cent of this.

• Sewer operating expenditures, less transfers to reserves, contingencies and capital project expenditures will increase by $30,090 to $1,255,855 in 2017, a 2.52 per cent increase.

• Water operating expenditures, less transfers to reserves, contingencies and capital projects, will increase by $8,480 to $1,688,825, a .51 per cent increase.

The increase in municipal property taxes to a  single family home assessed at just over $352,000 will increase by $30 to $577.11, while policing costs will increase $87 to $170.47 per household.

When you factor in fire protection, fire hall debt, garbage, sewer and water fees, that some homeowner will pay $1,529.91 in taxes and user fees, an increase of $138.45, or just over $11 per month, said Zakall.

Sy Murseli, the man who has run for a spot on town council on numerous occasions and likes to be called “town council watchdog” was the only member of the public to make a presentation to council before the budget was passed.

Murseli said the increase in policing costs was money well spent.

“They are worth every penny,” he said.

He did suggest, as he has on more than one occasion in the past, that taxpayer funding to Destination Osoyoos, the town’s tourism marketing and economic development organization, be reduced.

“We are overtaxed,” said Murseli.

He once again complained about the amount of money spent by the town on consulting fees paid to True Consulting Ltd. in Kamloops.

When Murseli suggested the town spent close to $1.5 million on consulting fees in 2016, Chief Administrative Officer Barry Romanko stated those figures were grossly inaccurate and he invited Murseli to go over the figures in his office.

“Quite frankly, we don’t spend anywhere near that amount on engineering fees,” said Romanko.

Mayor Sue McKortoff thanked Murseli for his presentation.

Town staff is expected to begin the process of mailing out property tax paperwork to local home and business owners over the next few weeks.

The deadline to pass the 2017 budget for municipalities across B.C. was Monday.

KEITH LACEY

Osoyoos Times

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