Policing costs fuel township tax increase

Now that Spallumcheen's population is more than 5,000, the township has to pay for policing, which could bring a significant tax hike...

Spallumcheen council is warning township residents to brace for a significant tax hike.

With the recent census showing Spallumcheen’s population reaching 5,055, that means the township will now have to pay for policing.

Add that to other services costs and the hike could be substantial.

“There’s a probability of it being 12 per cent,” said Coun. Christine Fraser.

“Right now, how the first draft of the budget sits, there’s a 7.94 per cent increase for policing, and four per cent just for increases in services, that is, what we’re being billed by the regional district, the library board.”

Municipalities whose population is between 5,000 and 15,000 residents pay 70 per cent of policing costs.

Those municipalities under 5,000, which the township was until the recent census, had policing provided at no cost.

Before, when Spallumcheen’s population exceeded 5,000, the township paid for three police officers and one municipal clerk. The province, currently in negotiations with the township, wants Spallumcheen to pay for four officers and a clerk.

“We prefer three,” said Brian Freeman-Marsh, Spallumcheen’s chief financial officer.

Mayor Janice Brown hopes to whittle the potential increase down, calling 12 per cent “unacceptable.”

“We’ve been working at trying to cut back, cut back, cut back,” said Brown.

“If we get one less police, we could get some community grants or we could cut some services. We’ve gone through the budget line by line, cut some grants in aid and took some stuff out of the budget.”

Fraser said a four per cent hike is automatically put on the books every year for budgeting purposes, then council and staff begin the task of cutting down.

“But with policing being a 7.94 per cent increase, it’s a huge hit,” she said. “It’s going to catch up to us and something’s got to give.”

Council will hold an open public meeting on the financial plan March 5 at 6 p.m. in council chambers.

Fraser and Brown encourage residents to come out, have a look at the numbers and make some suggestions.

“People will be able to see how much money goes to this, how much goes to that,” said Brown. “Anywhere we can cut, we want to get it out of there.”

Budgets must be submitted to the province for approval by May 15.