Fort St. John City Council adopted a tax bylaw on Monday, which will see the municipal portion of taxes increase by just over one per cent.
This, however, doesn’t tell the whole story according to City Manager Dianne Hunter.
“Because you’re looking at it from various perspectives,” said Hunter, “the percentage, or the dollar amount would raise.
“So, to say (there’s) a one per cent increase in tax rate, not everybody’s tax rates are adjusted the same,” she said.
“The City will say this is what we’re raising, but of course, people will look at what the impact to them on their tax bill is and they don’t really care that it might be Ministry of Education, the Province, the Regional District, the Regional Hospital District or the City – they just see it as the City,” said Hunter.
“So when we talk about it, we try to be very clear is that what we’re talking about is our portion of the tax bill that we have control over, but what people see is a combination of different agencies using our tax bill as the method to raise those taxes.”
In addition to the City being used as the means of collection by various agencies, rates are also impacted by assessment values.
“The other thing that complicates it is of course to take a look at it and say, as far as tax rate, but everybody’s assessments change also,” Hunter explained.
“From the municipality’s point of view, it starts right from the beginning when we’re talking about budget,” she said. “How much has the budget increased? That’s the amount of tax revenue that you need to raise.
“The… tax ratio is less relevant at the end of the day and really it can get quite complicated because everybody’s in a different class and their assessments are varying all the time, so to make a statement about a tax rate (is) really difficult,” said Hunter.
“Because everybody will go back to their assessment notice and go, ‘Well that doesn’t impact me by one per cent, I’m down by half a per cent’ or ‘I’m up by two per cent.’”
Residentially, the city’s portion of the taxes has increased from 5.0885 to 5.2128 dollars of tax per $1,000 taxable value. Major industrial has increased from 26.4255 to 27.0710, while light industrial has increased from 25.795 to 26.4251.
Business has gone from 14.3166 to 14.6661. Recreation has increased from 10.7428 to 10.987, and the farm rate has increased from 14.0075 to 14.3497.
These rates are to fulfill the municipality’s revenue needs to meet their 2012 budget.
“It starts off with us looking at our financial needs; it’s called a budget,” said Hunter. “Once we establish our budget, then we take the dollar amount that we have indicated needs to be raised, then we take a look at what tax rate would raise that type of revenue and then we take a look at the ratios between the various classifications, whether it’s industrial, commercial or residential to take a look at what the tax rate would be for the different classes,” said Hunter.
She noted that these are the rates that the City has control over, but they are also the “collecting jurisdiction” for other parties.
“The regional district will tell us how much taxation they want us to raise from our community,” said Hunter. “That then goes back to the Regional District and then is contributing to functions that we’re in with the regional district.
“So solid waste, for example, or the leisure pool, or their planning department, or their general administration, so we collect all the revenue from them and we have no control over setting those budgets,” she said.
“We are the collecting agency – same as from the Regional District Hospital Authority – they’ll tell us how much we need to raise in Fort St. John to contribute to the new hospital,” she continued.
“In addition to that, the province requires municipalities to collect the taxes for schools, for education, so they’ll be sending us the rate… for education,” Hunter said.
“We collect all those dollars from the Regional District, for the regional hospital district, for the province then we collect that money and send it off to the various agencies at the end of the tax season.”