A hefty property tax increase will soon be in the mail for Bashaw residents.
At a special meeting April 24, Bashaw town council — minus Coun. Rob MacDonald who had another commitment — set a 6.58 per cent tax increase as it approved the 2019 budget. The hike will bring in nearly $778,700 in tax revenue, slightly more than $51,200 over what was levied in 2018.
What that means for residents and businesses will depend upon their tax classification and property assessment. For residential property, that will translate into between $40 to $300 extra while non-residential properties will see a jump of between $50 and $250 more.
“I would have liked to have seen it come in lower,” said Coun. Darren Pearson.
However, Mayor Penny Shantz explained, “There is still a line we have to meet and do what is essential for the town to remain viable. It’s not what I would have liked, but what can we do, the numbers are there and what more realistically can be cut?”
CAO Theresa Fuller noted a couple of issues led to the tax increase: revenue and expenses both lower than in 2018 and trouble with an overflow of water that took in less than anticipated.
Last year, the town took in just over $1.29 million before property taxes while paying out less than $2.02 million, compared to 2019 where Bashaw expects around $107,000 less in revenue with expenses dropping a further $63,000.
The majority of that revenue drop ($105,000) was an operational surplus from previous years used to shelter residents from the shock of a water price hike.
In addition, an over-estimation of water sales revenue combined with not knowing how much town facilities were using led to a $316,000 deficit in 2018, according to the recently completed audit.
“We have got to figure out why we are not getting paid for one-third of our water use,” said Coun. Lynn Schultz, who doesn’t believe it is all used by the town facilities.
Fuller noted Bashaw, like last year, will pay the regional water commission for 99,000 cubic metres of water, charging $3.16 per cubic metre to come up with a more realistic revenue estimate of around $345,000, $22,000 less than in 2018 when the price was $2.64.
She added that by the end of the summer, all of the town owned facilities will have water meters installed so staff can better track water usage in order to find possible savings and efficiencies.
Not so bad
The original tax increase was set at 10.05 per cent with an option presented that would have seen it dip slightly to 8.92 per cent.
However, council chipped away $30,000 from the budget to bring the number down to one that was more palatable.
The reductions came in the form of $10,000 shaved from public works (pothole patching materials), a similar sized cut to the amount given to the Bashaw Beautification Committee and a decision to not provide a $10,000 top up to FCSS funding that is split between the Bashaw District Support Services and the Bashaw Youth Foundation.