Balancing a budget is never easy for a municipality of any size, especially when faced with increased costs outside of its control.
The Town of Sidney is facing that dilemma in its update of its five-year financial plan. General taxpayers are faced with a projected tax rate increase of 3.19 per cent — a rate that town staff say will most likely come down as they and council work through their priorities for 2013.
One way the town is exploring to get extra revenue is increasing its light industry (class 5) tax rate. Since 2008, that rate has dropped significantly — about a full percentage point below that paid by commercial taxpayers. Normally, it is the practice of B.C. municipalities to keep those levels equal, or perhaps higher for the light industrial property owners.
A lack of firm policies in place, market conditions and a provincial industry tax credit since 2009 have contributed to Sidney’s rate falling so far.
Now, the town wants it raised to get on par with their peers.
The proposed rate hike will bring in an estimated $80,000 if it’s done all at once. If raised over two years, that would be halved. That money would be used to help lower the overall general tax rate from 3.19 to 2.77 per cent.
If the town pursues this change, they need to take staff advice and put policies in place to ensure they don’t send local industrial property owners on a roller coaster ride. They, like the rest of Sidney business and residents, need certainty in their tax bill.
With only 10 light industrial taxpayers in West Sidney, the impact of this change will be felt by those businesses. Yet, they will end up paying what their commercial counterparts pay, and that’s only fair.