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Dawson Creek tax bill ranks 105th in B.C.

Dawson Creek placed 105 out of 161 B.C. municipalities for total charges levied on an average home last year, falling five places from the year before. According to new data from the city, 104 B.C.
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Dawson Creek placed 105 out of 161 B.C. municipalities for total charges levied on an average home last year, falling five places from the year before.

According to new data from the city, 104 B.C. communities had lower tax bills, while 56 communities charged more than Dawson Creek.

The 161st place goes to the highest-taxed municipality in the province.

Dawson Creek slid in the provincial rankings from 2014, when it ranked 99 out 160 (61 municipalities had higher tax bills). While overall charges were up relative to other cities, Dawson Creek improved its standing on municipal taxes, from 114 to 112.

"This shows that Dawson Creek improved its position on residential variable tax benchmarking, but not its position on total charges," Dawson Creek Chief Financial Officer Shelly Woolf wrote in the city's draft 2016 budget.

Mayor Dale Bumstead attributed Dawson Creek's rank to the city's weak industrial tax base.

"When you look at our community in relation to other communities that have industrial development—plants or big industrial developments that are huge contributors to your overall tax (base)—our community really has very little of that," he said.

With the exception of its OSB Mill, Dawson Creek has almost no heavy industry inside the city limits, while most natural gas development is difficult to tax locally because it lies outside city boundaries.

The region's Fair Share deal with the province was designed to ease the industry's strain on city coffers, but doesn't fully cover the shortfall.

Bumstead said any improvement in Dawson Creek's ranking is due to the city being more efficient at spending tax dollars.

However, "we'll always be in a struggle to compete when (we) don't have big commercial, industrial development," Bumstead said, adding the city needs to attract large commercial players like hotels.

Average homeowner will pay another $36

Dawson Creek's tax rate is staying flat this year, but the average homeowner will pay more due to rising assessments.

The city expects a "marginal" increase of $36.38 on most single family homes, according to a draft budget released Monday.

The City of Fort St. John's council, meanwhile, is debating whether to lower tax rates to help residents hit by the oil downturn cope with rising assessments.

In 2015, Dawson Creek levied $3,562 in fees and charges on an average single-family home, including $1,590 in municipal taxes.

The city calculates tax bills based on a rate of 5.16 per $1,000 of assessed value, a rate that has not changed since 2010. The city also charges a flat tax of $300 on developed lots.

Assessments climbed from $250,087 in 2015 to $257,137 this year. Housing prices have jumped since 2009, when an average home was $186,000.

Compared to other northern communities, Dawson Creek is middle of the pack for total charges, the budget shows.

In 2015, the city ranked behind Fort St. John ($4,158) and Prince Rupert ($3,716), but ahead of Smithers ($3,009) Terrace ($2,937) and Mackenzie ($2,031).

reporter@dcdn.ca

 

Dawson Creek 2016 draft financial plan by Jonny Wakefield