Taxes in Vanderhoof will be increased by 7.5 percent in 2019 and arena fees is going up by 3 percent.
Out of the 7.5 percent increase in taxes for 2019, 4 percent is for the pool, 2 percent for equipment and 1.5 percent for operations.
In terms of the tax increase because of the pool, Gerry Thiessen, mayor of Vanderhoof said,”we went to the electorate in a referendum five years ago and asked for a pool and at that time we were given the opportunity to raise taxes by 16 percent. We will in effect be reducing that by a significant amount.”
Taxes have gone up by 16 percent since 2017, and Thiessen said that council has saved 5 percent, taking into consideration the 2.5 percent increase in cost of living per year.
As for the three percent increase in arena costs, Thiessen said, “We subsidize the arena costs substantially. And what has happened is in the last few years we have fallen behind a long ways in our policy in what we want to subsidize. So what we felt was that if we did increase it [arena costs] by 3 percent, it starts to get us back to what the costs are.”
He added that energy prices and labour costs have continued to rise, but when asked whether this increase in cost will affect arena usage, he said council wants to make sure that people use recreational facilities.
“We have seen that we have fallen behind in the last few years in not only what our costs are but also in relationship to our neighbouring communities and their charges in terms of arena costs in their communities,” Thiessen said.
Other user fees that have been affected are garbage rates. Previously the District gave a 25 percent discount to seniors and 10 percent discount to others if they paid their bills on time. Margaret Stewart, chief financial officer for the District questioned council as to why such a discount was in force in Vanderhoof, during the special meeting held to discuss budget on April 9.
For 2019, seniors will continue to get a discount of 15 percent if they pay on time and the other 10 percent discount that everyone else received, is being removed all together.
“We want to make sure that each service we provide pays for itself. Whether it is water, sewer and garbage. So we have to look at this and what we are required to do. And there was a 10 percent reduction for those who paid on time which wasn’t really transparent,” Thiessen said.
“So now, we said, okay when you get your bill that is what your bill is, so we have taken away that early payment discount. But the thing is that we have kept it at the same rates,” he added.
Meanwhile, during the special meeting Stewart said that the District has a provision to increase user fees by 2 percent every year, however the District does not enforce that increase every year. User fees was last increased approximately three years ago, she said.
“Water and sewer have to be self funding but that includes their infrastructure, so if you are increasing rates by 2 percent – collective agreement, wages go up two percent. You are putting some money away for infrastructure but you are also covering your increased costs and that is not happening right now,” she said to mayor and council while presenting the rest of the 2019 financial plan.
Council is holding another special meeting on April 15, at the municipal office at 5:30 pm. It is open to the public.