Dear fellow Rosslanders,
You may or may not be aware, but it is municipal budget and tax rate setting time again. There is no really exciting way to start this conversation, but it might be one that you would benefit from taking a moment to look at.
Over the last decade, we Rosslanders have enjoyed a high level of services, and a minimal rate of tax increases, due to our municipal government's aversion to raising tax rates. While that has been beneficial to us all every July 1st, when we pay our taxes, it has meant that the city has had to find efficiencies and increase productivity without adding additional money beyond a cost of living increase to the day to day running of the city. At the same time, Rossland’s residential inventory has increased by 293 homes, and the number of homes occupied permanently, year round has increased by 191 homes. We are the community of choice for new residents moving to our region.
As we are all aware, Rossland has embarked on several large infrastructure projects since 2013. The projects have increased the attractiveness and functionality of our community, and the city has done a great job of accessing grant money to offset costs. But, there are still costs that the community is left to cover.
In 2016, council developed a 4-year financial plan based on the information available to them at that time. When council developed that financial plan, they were under the impression that Rossland was a stagnant city in both growth and revenue opportunities, and might actually be experiencing negative growth. Since that time, council has received information from multiple sources confirming that our residential inventory, permanent residential households and population are all increasing.
In spite of the additional information council has received, they continue to move forward with a financial plan better suited to a community in decline rather than a growing and vibrant municipality such as ours. So, while a 4.75% municipal tax increase may seem reasonable, the additional revenue generated by that increase will fall $142,542 short of covering just the finance and interest charges on Rossland’s portion of recent infrastructure costs. In addition, council has already reduced our budget by $250,000 in 2017. Together, that’s $392,542 that will not be available for payroll, bylaw officers, snow removal, road repair, equipment replacement, culvert or retaining wall repairs, community supports, facilities maintenance or any other services that the city might provide, or that citizens have come to expect. Rossland’s tax revenue increases have fallen short of covering the costs of financing and interest on these projects since 2014. The current financial plan projects smaller tax increases, with a commensurate increase in shortfalls to cover the financing and interest, culminating in a $409,000 shortfall in 2021. And that’s if there are no other additional costs incurred by the city until that time.
To understand how a 4.75% municipal tax increase affects you, the overall increase you could expect to see on your total tax bill will be less that 3%. Over half of the homes and properties in Rossland (57%) will pay a $90 increase or less on this year’s bill, another 20% will pay between $90 and $102. Homes or properties assessed at more than $300,000 (23%) will pay more.
If the council chose to raise taxes enough to cover the additional cost of financing and interest on the cost of our infrastructure projects, we would need to raise our municipal tax rate by 8.11%. Crap, that seems like a big number, doesn’t it? Well, what that would actually mean is that your overall bill would go up less than 5%. Over half the homes (57%) in Rossland would pay a $154 increase or less, or less than $13 per month, another 20% would pay between $154 and $175, up to $14.50 per month, and the 23% of owners who have homes assessed at more than $300,000 would pay more than $175 on this year’s bill.
I don’t think anyone (including me) likes the idea of paying more for anything, but continuing to avoid our city’s financial responsibilities seems like the municipal equivalent of making the minimum payment on our credit card, and hoping for the best. This isn’t a plea to increase taxes so that we can increase spending in any one area, or for any one group, but so that we can all continue to enjoy the community that attracted us here in the first place, by adequately covering our mutually beneficial expenses. I am willing to invest in this municipality to benefit and sustain the community as a whole, whether I use all the services or not. I hope that you will provide council with your input, no matter your stance on the matter. A Public Hearing will be held by the City of Rossland on May 4 at 6:00 pm.
Thanks for your time.