The city is clarifying answers on questions from residents about the impact to Vernon taxpayers should the Oct. 15 referendum to borrow $121 million to build a new Active Living Centre go through.
The city distributed a media release about the funding strategy and impact for Vernon taxpayers on Tuesday, Aug. 30. City communications and grants manager Christy Poirier said questions from the public have arisen seeking clarification on the borrowing terms and tax impact.
“The city’s objective is to provide accurate, fact-based information in a clear and concise manner to achieve shared understanding with citizens,” said Poirier. “Therefore, we believe it’s prudent to offer additional information and clarification as quickly as possible.”
It’s estimated the average assessed residential property in Vernon would see an increase of $292 in annual property taxes, added incrementally over the course of four years (2024 – 2027), for the purpose of developing the Active Living Centre.
To reduce the amount of money the city would have to borrow for the project, and to reduce the impact for Vernon taxpayers, the city is also actively pursuing major grant funding for the planning, design, and construction of the facility.
Recently, the city applied for a $6 million grant through the Canada Community Building Fund in British Columbia – Strategic Priorities Fund Capital Infrastructure Stream. According to the grant administrator, the status of the city’s application is not expected to be available until the end of 2022 or start of 2023.
The first property tax increase related to the Active Living Centre project would be expected in 2024, with the following schedule:
• 2024: 3.5 per cent increase for debt repayment;
• 2025: 3.5 per cent increase for debt repayment;
• 2026: 3.5 per cent increase for debt repayment + 0.4 per cent increase for facility operating costs*;
• 2027: 3.0 per cent increase for debt repayment + 0.9 per cent increase for facility operating costs.
*If built, the Active Living Centre is expected to be open in the fall of 2026, thus requiring additional funds for operating costs.
No more property tax increases are expected after 2027 for the purpose of repaying the debt to develop the Active Living Centre facility.
“The funding strategy for this project uses an approach that is similar to Vernon’s infrastructure levy program,” said Debra Law, director, financial services.
“Instead of implementing a single, double-digit property tax increase to pay for the new debt, council has endorsed a plan to do smaller, incremental tax increases over four years, to help lessen the financial burden on citizens. After 2027, we would have enough new taxes coming in annually to pay for the new debt (with interest) and repay the loan within the 30-year term.”
Below is a table that shows the estimated incremental and cumulative property tax increases for the development of the Active Living Centre. The dollar values are based on the 2022 average assessed property value of $611,523.
Loan amount and borrowing terms
If electors vote in favour of the referendum question, the city would borrow up to $121 million over a four-year period (2023 – 2026) from the Municipal Finance Authority (MFA). The funds would be used for the planning, design and construction of the Active Living Centre.
The loan would have a 30-year term, with an estimated interest rate of 4.23 per cent. The estimated annual debt payments would be just over $7.8 million.
The city would have up to five years to begin borrowing funds and would make its first draw on the loan in the fall of 2023 with the following proposed schedule:
• 2023: Facility planning and design to take place, drawing $12 million from the MFA loan;
• 2024: Construction to begin on the facility, drawing $40 million from the MFA loan;
• 2025: Construction to continue on the facility, drawing $40 million from the MFA loan;
• 2026: Construction to be completed with an anticipated fall 2026 opening date, drawing up to $29 million from the MFA loan.
Financial impact for Vernon taxpayers
For more information about the proposed project and to review conceptual drawings, relevant reports, and a comprehensive list of frequently asked questions, everyone is encouraged to visit www.engagevernon.ca/activelivingcentre.
If you have further questions regarding the above information, contact Doug Ross, recreation services director at email@example.com.
This story has been updated at 11:05 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 1, with the correct tax impact table. We apologize for the error