A chart showing a breakdown of the District of Houston's $8 million budget for 2012.

A chart showing a breakdown of the District of Houston's $8 million budget for 2012.

District taxes up slightly in low spending, upkeep budget

Tax rates in the District of Houston will go up an overall 2.4 per cent this year.

Tax rates in the District of Houston will go up an overall 2.4 per cent this year.

Calling it a “maintenance budget,” councillors passed a new 2012 to 2016 financial plan that is largely focused on upkeep rather than new projects.

Home owners will see a slight rise in the portion of property tax collected directly by the District—a 32 cent bump per $1,000 of assessed value.

For a home valued at $122,000, that means a District tax bill of $1,054 in 2012, $41 higher than the $1,013 collected in 2011. Those figures also include hospital and regional district taxes, but not the taxes that go to schools or BC Assessment.

Nor do they include water and sewer taxes, which have not changed since 2010.

Taxes make up half the District’s $8.4-million revenue for 2012, and the majority of those taxes—48 per cent—come from major and light industry.

In the budget report, councillors noted that they plan to reduce Houston’s reliance on forestry in the long term.

Major industries, such as Houston’s sawmills, do get some tax breaks from the District when they make upgrades to that boost their assessment values.

Speaking to councillors, Chief Financial Officer Tandra Bamsey says that the District did see new construction in 2011, which boosted its total taxes by 0.5 per cent.

But at the same time, she said the assessed value of Houston properties still fell from $218 to $216 million.

That drop is partly due to two large demolitions, she said, one at the old highways maintenance yard and another at the Esso bulk fuel station.

The District has no really large projects planned until 2014, when it will install new water mains on 6th Street, a $900,000, partly grant-funded project that will boost water flow for Houston firefighters. The same year will see new railway signals installed at the Benson Avenue crossing.

“Growth is great,” Bamsey said. “But we have to maintain what we have and try not to raise taxes.”

This year the District’s only projects over $50,000 include a new vacuum truck, a new fire tanker, wildfire protection work, and a columbarium designed to hold cremated ashes at the new Mountain View cemetery.

The total cost of those projects is $1 million—about the same amount of money that the District is obliged to put into its reserves.

Since 2008, Houston has put about $1 million a year into reserves, following a provincial order that says all B.C. towns and cities need to strengthen their reserves enough to replace all their basic infrastructure. Houston is already halfway towards that goal,  said Bamsey.

The five-year plan does set down $4.4 million for a new water treatment plant in 2015, but those plans will not go ahead unless the District receives substantial grants from the provincial government.

 

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