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Tax increase possible for Comox

COMOX, B.C. – The Town of Comox’s 2019 Preliminary Financial Plan includes a 2.1 percent overall municipal tax levy.

“That’s our starting point,” the town’s director of finance Clive Freundlich told the newsroom. “That number was basically what we projected a year ago, so council hasn’t really deliberated on that but that’s just a consideration. Really, it’s just a plug number so we can start the conversation on the budget.”

During Wednesday’s committee of the whole meeting, Freundlich told Comox council members that “a year ago, when we did the five-year plan, we proposed for this year, the second year of the five-year plan, that we do a 2.11 percent increase.

“With that increase, simply, I just took that and I plugged that into the discussion here and I then I did the budget around that.”

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Meanwhile, Freundlich warned that this is not the firm tax rate “at all.”

“The conversation is, ‘this is what we put in a year ago, and we’re suggesting this and probably a one percent infrastructure replacement, so that 2.11 will be 3.11.’ It’s very hard to put out a number when you’ve had one conversation. (A tax levy of) 2.11 plus one is probably more a starting point, so 3.11 is more of a better feel people might have. It’s so preliminary, it’s really hard to put numbers out there.”

The 3.11 percent hike is the overall municipal tax levy, “but we have a number of property tax classes,” Freundlich explained.

The tax burden shifts depending on assessments, he added.

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Preliminary property tax increases, based on last year’s projections for 2019, include:

Single family residential – 2.88 percent ($35.30 per year); residential – 1.98 percent ($23.05); business: – 1.91 percent ($107.04); and farm – 2.46 percent ($1.60).

Much of Comox’s 2019 capital expenditures is going into infrastructure, Freundlich noted. “Mostly, the biggest section is always transportation – the roads. (There are) 21 road projects. The combination of storm drains and roads, that’s the big one. There are some works on parks as well.”

In his report, Freundlich noted that “Our town is growing. While growth brings additional tax revenues, it places higher demands and pressures on the town’s infrastructure, operations, and staff. Historically, staff have damaged this growth in services and programs by working longer hours. This is no longer sustainable and comes at the expense of employee health and welfare.”

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The report notes that, based on population, the Town of Comox comes in within the bottom 10 percentile in terms of administrative and finance expense per capita.

The committee of the whole will vote on property tax rates and the recommendation to approve the budget on April 24.

The first three readings of the financial plan and tax rates’ bylaws will come before council on May 1.

Final reading will be before council on May 8.

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