The City of Duncan is anticipating that its tax increase for 2023 could be as high as 9.9 per cent, but director finance Bernice Crossman cautioned that the projected increase is very preliminary at this early stage of the city’ budget-building process for next year.
In a draft budget overview for 2023 that Crossman presented at the committee of the whole meeting on Dec. 2, she said the increases to the cost of policing in the city is the main driver behind the anticipated significant tax increases for 2023 and also in 2024, when another 9.05 per cent tax increase is being projected.
When the 2022 budget was adopted last year, the city had planned for a 7.94 per cent tax increase in 2023 and 7.3 per cent in 2024 mostly to deal with the increased policing costs before dropping back to 2.1 per cent in 2025.
The city saw a 5.2 per cent tax increase in 2022.
In 2021, the city surpassed the 5,000 population mark and had to start paying 70 per cent of its policing costs, as required by the provincial Policing Act.
“Since the census was released, the city has been, and to date continues to be, in negotiations with the province as to how many officers the city will be responsible for paying for,” she said.
“The issue is difficult to quantify because of the city’s unique situation of being the hub of other jurisdictions.”
Crossman said the municipality has been saving money in its Police Bridging Capital fund for several years with the intention that it would not be such a shock to Duncan’s taxpayers when the city had to start paying for policing.
She said that each year, the PBC levy has been increased in order to limit the tax increase.
“Unfortunately, the estimated costs of policing had not been re-analyzed for several years, and the policing costs have increased far more than the amount that the PBC levy has increased,” Crossman said.
“Therefore, there is additional catch up required.”
The PBC fund has also been used to pay off the city’s debt towards the Cowichan Aquatic Centre, and enabled several capital projects to proceed without the need for borrowing.
Crossman said the tax rates for 2023 will be discussed in April after the assessment roll is released.
She said it’s expected that new construction in the city will reduce some of the financial burden on taxpayers, but that can’t be measured until the assessment roll is released in January.
Crossman said now that the draft budget has been presented to council at the committee of the whole meeting, there will be two budget meetings scheduled initially and a period of public consultations will be held.
“Further budget meetings will be scheduled in the new year and, hopefully, we will have more information about the Municipal Policing Agreement by then,” she said.