Nelson city council gave three readings Monday to a five-year financial plan that includes a three per cent property tax increase for 2012.
Councillor Bob Adams, however, voted against the budget, arguing that combined with previously approved increases to water, sewer, and hydro rates, it places too heavy a load on taxpayers.
“Three per cent is not a whole lot, but some people can’t afford it,” he said. “People like to come to Nelson, but it’s too expensive to buy here.”
Adams said Nelson’s tax burden places it 30th among BC municipalities.
“About 100 are better than us. We’re very high. This can’t keep going.”
Councillor Robin Cherbo said he agreed with Adams, but “continual provincial and federal dowloads” forces the city to make up the difference.
“We’ve had heated discussions about services,” Cherbo said. “It’s very difficult to decide where to cut city services. Most people want more, not less. We need to find other sources of funding.”
Councillor Deb Kozak noted the tax hike — which will generate another $195,000 in revenue — works out to $40 more for the average homeowner.
“For some it is a hardship,” she said. “But at this point we’re not able to make any big changes.”
Kozak said they have reduced some services — including not filling positions in the fire and police departments lost through attrition last year — but wondered about a previously contemplated overall review.
Councillor Donna Macdonald complimented staff and council for doing “a really good job” after some long meetings.
“We’ve made good progress. We can’t keep dealing with a structural debt every year without new revenue streams,” she said. “If we can keep the tax increase at or around the cost of living increase, we’re doing pretty well.”
Macdonald noted other BC municipalities have seen double-digit tax increases this year. “Nobody likes to increase taxes but the reality is costs go up.”
The financial plan was presented for council’s consideration following an open house on April 4, attended by 22 members of the public.
The plan projects Nelson will take in $51.9 million in revenue this year, including $8.6 million in property taxes, and $15.5 million from Nelson Hydro — up from $48.7 million in 2011.
Total city operations are expected to cost $42.4 million, plus $4.8 million in amortization, leaving a surplus of $4.6 million.
The share collected from each property class (residential, business, light industry) will remain proportionately the same.
The plan is expected to receive final adoption at council’s next meeting.