North Cowichan Mayor Rob Douglas says the municipality will continue to explore ways to lower the tax increase in 2023 from the 5.6 per cent that is currently projected. (File photo)

North Cowichan Mayor Rob Douglas says the municipality will continue to explore ways to lower the tax increase in 2023 from the 5.6 per cent that is currently projected. (File photo)

North Cowichan now eyeing 5.6% tax increase in 2023

The tax increase was projected to be 9.26% last June

The projected tax increase for 2023 in the Municipality of North Cowichan is currently at 5.6 per cent as the municipality continues through its budget-building process.

That’s far lower than the anticipated 9.26 per cent tax increase that was projected in June for next year in a staff report.

North Cowichan’s committee of the whole decided at its meeting on Dec. 13 to make significant cuts of almost $1 million to the proposed budget for 2023, which was instrumental in seeing cuts to the proposed tax increase.

RELATED STORY: NORTH COWICHAN PROJECTS 9.26% TAX INCREASE IN 2023

They included reducing capital spending by $417,570; only budgeting 90 per cent of North Cowichan’s RCMP contract costs for 2023, for a total of $331,262 in savings because, typically, the RCMP isn’t able to fill all their vacant positions in a given year; decreasing contributions to a number of reserve funds by $80,000, and funding one-time project costs of $140,000 from the unappropriated surplus from 2022.

In total, these budget savings reduced the projected tax increase by almost three per cent.

Finance director Talitha Soldera said council will have its next round of budget discussions on Jan. 10 and may decide on more budget cuts to lower the proposed tax increase for 2023, but it’s entirely up to the discretion of council whether further cuts, if any, will be made.

Mayor Rob Douglas said that with the rising cost of living having a big impact on local residents and businesses, North Cowichan is working hard to reduce the projected tax increase for 2023.

He said this involves some tough decisions, as the municipality is already facing more than $1 million in new costs associated with servicing the debt for the new $49-million headquarters for the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment, which is being constructed on a five-acre property owned by North Cowichan bordering Ford Road and Drinkwater Road.

RELATED STORY: NEW RCMP DETACHMENT NOW SCHEDULED TO BE COMPLETED BY OCTOBER, 2023

Douglas said that the that the majority of the tax increase, 3.17 per cent, for 2023 is due to debt servicing for the new RCMP station.

“Council has decided to take a balanced approach, cutting nearly $1 million in spending from the proposed budget for 2023 while continuing to maintain current service levels and setting aside resources for environmental restoration and long-term planning, with future generations in mind,” Douglas said.

“The current projected tax increase of 5.6 per cent is down significantly from the 9.26 per cent projection earlier this year, and we will continue to work hard to find additional cost savings to benefit residents and business owners before the budget is finalized in the new year.”

The municipality had kept its tax increase relatively low in 2022, at 2.89 per cent, during the COVID-19 pandemic to help property owners who are facing financial difficulties, but the preliminary budget for 2023 so far includes the reinstatement of a number of items that were eliminated to lower the tax increase.

North Cowichan is mandated to have its final budget for 2023 in place by May 15, but Soldera said staff and council are hoping to have it finalized by sometime in February.

Property taxes

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