The Municipality of North Cowichan is considering a 2.89 per cent tax increase for its property owners in 2019.
It’s still fairly early in the district’s budget process, but three public meetings have already been held across North Cowichan during the fall to allow people to provide their input as to where they see spending priorities should be concentrated.
There will be more opportunities for input before the budget is finalized in the new year.
With the average home in the municipality now at $391,292, according to BC Assessment’s review in 2018, the municipal tax on the average property would be $1,579 in 2019 if the budget passes as is.
Among the proposed additional expenditures that are included in the increase in taxes are a 1.3 per cent increase in inflation and a two per cent wage increase.
Preparations for the long-anticipated new North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment are also included in the proposed budget, which would see $179,000, or 0.27 per cent, of the budget dedicated to the project in 2019.
The overall cost of the detachment building is now in the $40 million range. That will be split between North Cowichan and the province, although exactly how much each will be responsible for has yet to be determined.
As for Duncan’s portion of the bill, under the policing agreement with the province, Victoria pays for all the policing costs for communities under 5,000 people, and communities with more than 5,000 people pay for 90 per cent of their costs. This means the province will look after Duncan’s financial responsibilities for the new detachment building.
It’s anticipated that construction of the new police detachment will begin in the fall of 2019.
North Cowichan’s finance director Mark Frame said covering the costs of the detachment has led to projected tax increases of 5.35 per cent in 2020, and 4.17 per cent in 2021, which are much higher than in previous years.
Frame said the public is encouraged to participate in the budget process by attending meetings specifically to gather input, with the next one scheduled for Dec. 3 at the municipal hall.
Another means to gather public input into the process is the Citizen Budget, an online budget simulation tool that shows residents exactly how much they pay for various municipal services.
It allows residents to indicate if they think service levels are appropriate and whether they would increase, decrease, or maintain the budget for each service.
There’s also PlaceSpeak, an online citizen-engagement platform that allows residents to engage with the municipality with their budget ideas and concerns.
“It’s important for council to understand what people expect from the budget, so we encourage people to participate through this process,” Frame said.
The municipality’s deadline for finalizing its budget for 2019 is May 15, but the budget is usually completed each year by February.