Not a very popular topic, but as most people know July is when property taxes are due.
This year there will be the cost of inflation increase calculated on assessed property value. While citizens look at the property tax form and are concerned by the amount due, it should be noted that not all tax payments on the tax bill are from the City of Nelson.
A lot of people do not know that the tax calculation is not based on whether property assessment has decreased or increased, but rather on a tax calculation which is based on the amount of money the City requires to balance the budget.
A formula, calculated by our finance department, is used to achieve the required amount. The mayor, city council and staff discuss the City budgets during a number of meetings, which are open to the public. As well there was an open house on the budget which took place at the Nelson Library this year.
Our council has very detailed discussions on the City budget and takes it very seriously when we have put forward a tax increase that has to be passed by a majority vote of council.
Very few citizens attend the budget public meetings which include, along with the information, an explanation of the process where the public can ask questions. We have more people attending city council meetings on continuous issues than attend the public budget meeting presentation where input is welcomed and valued.
That being said, the Nelson citizens should carefully look over their tax notice and review it to understand what are the City taxes and what are other taxes. The tax list includes local school taxes, Municipal Finance Authority taxes, regional district taxes, West Kootenay Hospital board taxes, Assessment Authority taxes, Central Kootenay hospital taxes, city storm sewer parcel tax and finally the general municipal tax. So please note there are a number of taxes that are not controlled by the City that will be listed on the 2013 property tax notice that property owners have to pay.
Unfortunately the cost of operating the City increases by inflation every year so City staff have recommended over a five-year plan that taxes increase at two per cent per year. The cost of inflation over the last year was averaged out to be approximately 1.8 per cent. While the five-year plan is to increase taxes per year, this is a recommendation and each year it needs to be passed by a majority of city council to go into effect.
While the budget is passed for this year, I would like to see more of the public participate in the budget process. I would like to explore, along with other council members and staff, a system of participatory budgeting with the public. This has been done in other communities with success. This system would not only allow public participation in the budget process, but would also provide education and assist the citizens to understand the whole budget tax process and have positive input.
The old saying is that you cannot escape death or taxes, but with knowledge comes understanding.
Robin Cherbo is a Nelson city councillor who shares this Wednesday space with his colleagues around the table.