District of Clearwater council voted to modestly increase taxes at the virtually-held regular meeting on May 4.
Residential rates will go up by two per cent, while businesses will see a one per cent tax rate increase. The 2021 tax rate bylaw, as part of the DOC’s five year plan, was received and will see adoption on May 6, .
“Many of our local businesses and their employees have been directly impacted by the COVID health orders in place, especially in the tourism and hospitality industry,” said Coun. Lucy Taylor, chair of Finance and Audit Committee in a press release. “This year, District staff and council have been working extra hard to create a budget that focuses on delivering the level of service that the community expects, while minimizing the tax burden on residents and businesses.”
She added despite the low increase in taxation, council still has an ambitious agenda for the year, due to grant opportunities as well as private contributions.
Council and staff deliberated the 2021 budget while focusing on community needs outlined in the strategic plan, as well as the responses from the recent community survey. Community concerns during budget deliberations were taken into consideration and council is committed to continuing to work toward building reserves for infrastructure and roads and to allocate funds towards ensuring sustainable growth, according to the DOC press release.
“It became apparent early in this pandemic that the financial impact on our town would be hard and long lasting,” said Mayor Merlin Blackwell in the press release, adding council and staff worked long and hard to to make “thoughtful and caring choices” when prioritizing budget items and keeping taxes “as reasonable as possible.”
The taxation amount, however, had to be balanced with keeping core services available and ready to bounce back post-COVID.
“I think we have struck that fine balance in this budget but may need to look at being a bit moire aggressive with taxation in future years to make up for compassionate choices we have made today,” added Blackwell.
The 2021 budget includes: $838,000 in road rehabilitation and maintenance ($328,000 from private contribution and $120,000 Gas Tax funds), $100,000 capital and $50,000 for operational maintenance, as well as structural repairs on the Brookfield Bridge, pavement overlay on road sections throughout the district, ditching and shoulder grading; fire protection capital and reserves ($178,000); senior programming ($10,000); Strawberry Flats sewer feasibility study ($8,000); community parks ($392,500, including $340,000 private contribution); trails and multi-use pathway development ($2,062,957 and grant dependent); water ($551,312, including $475,000 private contribution); sanitary sewer ($8,996,438, $8 million grant dependent and $475,000 private contribution); and holding a reserve fund of $5,038,595 until end of 2021.
The District budget also includes maintaining existing service levels for road, the recreation program, protective services, transit and capital dollars for parks, as well as its short- and long-term financial principles, according to the release.
Details of the above budget items can be viewed on the DOC website.