Hike kept below four per cent

Armstrong preparing its five-year financial plan and residents face a 3.75 per cent hike

Armstrong council and city staff kept a planned tax hike for its residents under four per cent.

Council gave unanimous approval to three readings of the 2017 five-year financial plan and tax rates bylaws, with final adoption expected May 8.

For general city taxes, revenue projections include an increase of $22,000 for new construction, and the proposed budget includes a 3.75 per cent tax hike for general operations.

“The resulting revenue from these additional taxes will be just under $93,000,” said finance committee chairperson Steven Drapala, reading from a report prepared by chief financial officer Terry Martens.

The hike is in addition to the city’s increased needs for policing. The city has to pay policing costs for the first time in its history after its population exceeded 5,000 in the last census.

The calculated police tax rates need to mirror the general tax rate ratios (which is mandatory by legislation) in the differences or ratios of the rates between property classes. This will generate approximately $329,000 needed in 2017 for policing costs.

In the five-year plan, revised estimates for the policing cost is now approximately $470,000 compared to the earlier amount of $563,000.

“The proposed police tax necessary to fund this amount is $33 for the average house net of the elimination of the provincial police tax levy (what the city paid before its Census count resulted in a population of more than 5,000),” wrote Martens.

There will be re-distribution of revenue from Class 8 (recreation) assessed properties to Classes 2, 5 and 6 which represent non-residential property. The affect of this change is to equalize the tax rate between Class 6 commercial and Class 8. The change was originally implemented in 2016.

The tax rate ratio between commercial and residential has increased from 2.75 in 2016 to 2.82 this year. The provincial average in 2016 was 2.62.

“So we’re a little higher than the provincial average,” said Drapala, adding council directed staff not to adjust the calculated 2.82 ratio to keep the general residential tax increase under four per cent.

The five-year plan also includes revised cost estimates for the 2017 Willowdale Drive and Patterson Avenue capital projects.

The revised estimate for Willowdale Drive is $268,000, down from the original estimate of $293,000, but the revised estimate for Patterson Avenus is now $861,300, compared to the original estimate of $572,00.

“The extra charges are for many changes of scope from the original plan,” said Drapala. “Sufficient funds exist in the roads reserve and gas tax reserve for the increase and have been utilized to balance the budget.”

Council also unanimously passed four budget policies.

One is an update to the distribution of property taxes among the property classes, as mentioned above. Another is the proportion of revenue to come from various funding sources. The proportion of property taxes to total revenue is calculated at 26.1 per cent, which falls within the policy objective of no more than 30 per cent.

There is a new policy for tax increases for long-term planning, whereby beginning in 2018, a one per cent tax increase would incur each year rather than a two per cent hike every three years. The additional revenue generated from the increase will be reserved for future road and drainage infrastructure replacement.

There will be no changes made to the use of permissive tax exemptions.

In a related financial item, the city received a clean bill of health on its financial statements following an audit for its auditors, KPMG.

“It gives us a degree of confidence that our financial numbers are up to snuff,” said Drapala.