DNV draft budget promises just two-per-cent tax increase
Few expected any aggressive moves in the District of North Vancouver’s draft budget for 2012 — a year of continued global economic uncertainty. The status quo, it seemed, was all anyone was prepared to hope for.
But the district will try to do one better.
Although the draft budget tabled at Monday’s council meeting is very much a “draft” until it’s finalized in April, the district delivered a one-per-cent drop in property taxes from last year’s three-per-cent increase to just two per cent in 2012.
That amounts to a modest $36 hike in municipal property taxes for the average district household this year.
If it passes public input next month and final approval on April 2, the two-per-cent target would represent the lowest property-tax increase in recent memory and certainly the lowest of this two-term council.
Nicole Deveaux, the district’s chief financial officer, presented the draft 2012-2016 financial plan to council and explained the two-per-cent increase for 2012 with a simple metric: one per cent will pay for municipal operations and one per cent will be banked for capital investments.
On cursory reading it was a budget that every councillor including Mayor Richard Walton seemed happy with — even if there were some projects councillors would have liked to have seen funded sooner.
“One disappointment I must admit to,” Coun. Alan Nixon told Deveaux, “is the fact that the Grant Connell tennis facility does not show up in the five-year capital plan until 2013.”
The capital plan’s other major expenditure coming down the pipe before 2016 is the $50-million replacement of the William Griffin Community Recreation Centre.
Regardless of the specifics of the capital spending budget, staff and council talked up that side of the two-per-cent equation as the district’s piggy bank and the operations side as the spending money to run the district on.
“To those out there who say ‘Oh my goodness, it’s a two-per-cent increase,’ I would argue one per cent of that is investment,” said Coun. Doug Mackay-Dunn. “And that is the investment in the future and hopefully our children will be the beneficiaries of that.”
Deveaux credited cuts worth $750,000 from district staff and policing budgets with making the one-per-cent operations budget increase a possibility for 2012. In fact, one per cent for operations is below the projected inflation rate for 2012, Deveaux said, and is “at the low end of what we think is shaping up in the Lower Mainland based on the intelligence that I have at this point.”
But before district taxpayers rejoice at the alter of two per cent, consider the 2012 regional utility fees levied by Metro Vancouver which are projected to dwarf the district’s share of the tax bill.
“We talk about two per cent, $36 on the average home,” Coun. Mike Little told council, “and then someone gets hit with an eight-per-cent increase on their property taxes and they call us liars.”
There are at least two reasons for such discrepancies. One is that Metro Vancouver utility taxes make up more than half the cost of district property tax bills. The other is that the district’s two-per-cent property tax is distributed — not always fairly — across different property-value classes in the district.
Nonetheless, for the average detached home in the district in 2012, the regional utility fee is projected to climb by 9.9 per cent or $117 per household. For multi-family homes, it’s a 10.4-per-cent jump — or an extra $88.
“It’s the part of our budget that’s not on the table today that’s most going to impact tax bills going forward,” Mayor Walton said.