Property taxes could be raised by 7.7 per cent if the city’s proposed 2024 Public Budget goes through.
Presented at the Nov. 6 special council meeting, the majority of the proposed increase is due to contractual obligations, new city staff positions and infrastructure reconstruction.
The city’s shortfall for its 2024 projects will come out to $1.8 million resulting in an approximate $99 annual bump on average for Prince Rupert homeowners, from $1,963 to $2,062.
The largest increase, $930,000, could come from labour the city will continue to use to address its failing water pipes. This proposed spending would increase annual taxes by 3.97 per cent.
According to the city, only $1.35 million of the $140 million anticipated capital projects for the upcoming year will be funded through taxpayer money, with the other funding coming from borrowing, grants and Prince Rupert’s Legacy Inc., a city-owned fund from its property sales and other sources of revenue.
Two proposed increases are due to the city’s contracts with BC Transit and the RCMP, which they are unable to change. Increased costs for both contracts combined amount to $462,000, or a 1.98 increase from the 2023 tax revenue.
Councillor Barry Cunningham lauded the city’s financial staff, saying that they kept the tax increases tight wherever they could, with the city’s contracts swallowing much of the budget.
“Those are things we have no control over,” Cunningham said. “So when you look at the overall 7.7, [per cent increase] next to a couple of replacement positions, it’s down to seven. I think you’ve done an awesome job.”
Staffing increases amount to $180,000 more for 2024, or a 0.77 per cent increase to residents’ taxes.
Among the proposed staffing additions would be a new bylaw staff member to conduct administrative tasks. According to city staff, bylaw officers are currently overrun with administrative work, meaning they are unable to actually enforce city bylaws.
“We feel strongly about those things,” said city manager Rob Buchan on the staffing increases.
With the difficult financial situation the city is currently in, Buchan said their initial budget blueprint was cut continuously until they reached 7.7 per cent.
Inflation was another reason for the potentially unpopular proposal, which the city said will swell the prices of energy and supplies, adding $202,000 in 2024 or a 0.86 increase for taxpayers.
Finally, improvements to the city’s library represent a $27,000 and a 0.12 per cent increase.
Councillor Wade Niesh expressed his frustration at the extremely tight budget they have to work with due to what he said was irresponsible spending from past councils.
“It’s sad to say, there’s nothing fun in it,” he said. “It’s 90 per cent of crap that we’ve had to deal with from the past.”
Further public consultations were held at Coast Mountain College on Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. and Nov. 14 at the same time during council’s regular meeting.
Residents can also voice their opinions by emailing, calling or writing the city.
Seth Forward, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Rupert Northern View