OUR VIEW: A taxing time of the year

A question on the minds of many homeowners will be whether increases in property values will impact the taxes they pay.

Sidney led all three Peninsula municipalities on its tax rate hike in 2016 — keeping it to a paltry 0.81 per cent. It was actually one of the lowest rate increases in the region.

Central Saanich’s rate increase was 3.18 per cent and in North Saanich — which on a couple of occasions over the last five years saw zero increases, the rate jumped by 1.8 per cent in last year. Still relatively low, but high by North Saanich standards.

As question on the minds of many homeowners this year will be whether the recent round of increases in property values will impact the taxes they pay.

On average, properties across the Saanich Peninsula took a big jump in value this year. It’s from these assessments that municipalities will base their tax rates (or mil rates). They must set rates that will enable them to balance their budgets —paying for services and projects they will debate in the upcoming weeks as part of their  five-year financial plan process.

On one hand, local governments could opt to keep any rate hikes low, in the wake of increased property values. That would ensure homeowners aren’t paying more than they did last year or the year before.

On the other, a municipality facing added expenses could raise the rate to help pay those bills.

In the face of double-digit property assessments this month, however, local councils are going to have to work hard to justify rate hikes that surpass previous years. Already, groups such as the Grumpy Taxpayers of Greater Victoria are issuing challenges to residents and commercial business owners to ask questions of their local governments. They are worried about runaway taxation and municipal spending that is apparently surpassing cost-of-living price indexes. This sort of scrutiny of this year’s municipal budget is likely to occur in most communities in Greater Victoria, which saw housing values take varying degrees of big jumps in overall values.

Most councils on the Peninsula make efforts to keep tax impacts low, or at least reasonable. They will be hard-pressed to do it again this year.

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