Osoyoos residents recently received a notification from the town about next year’s tax increases, and people are not happy.
The town council approved the final budget on Oct. 24, including a 37 per cent increase to the average residential property tax and a 117 per cent increase in sewer and 146 per cent increase to water utility rates.
On the average residential property with a value of $720,535, the municipal tax rate is expected to reach $1,080.51 for 2024, up $295.56 from $784.95 in 2023.
Sewer costs for residents are expected on average to hit $824.40 a year, up $444.58 from the previous $379.82, while water costs are expected to hit an average of $1,133.39 a year, up $673.84 from $459.55
“It is important to note that the required financial commitment is substantial, which will undoubtedly place hardship on some property owners and/or tenants,” reads a portion of the budget package.
Even with the increases in sewer costs and the support of grant funding, the town’s sewer reserve is currently projected to go into the negatives due to the scale and number of projects set for 2024 to 2026.
Many residents took to social media to vent their concerns.
With the council vote on Oct. 24, the budget and tax increase is set to come into effect automatically on Jan. 1, when the previous financial plan bylaw is replaced.
According to the information in the package, the increases are the result of the city’s aging infrastructure, with unexpected failures not included in the budget both expected and imminent.
The alternative, according to the budget report, would be to instead borrow and replace infrastructure piecemeal when parts and systems inevitably fail.
“We are in an unavoidable situation that will result in scrutiny from our residents and businesses,” reads the budget.
The town ordered and completed asset management plans for its water and sewer systems in 2023, with the recommended utility increases coming out of those infrastructure reviews.
The budget package also states years of keeping taxes and utilities below the average of the rest of the Okanagan has left an $ 800-a-year infrastructure deficit that needs to be made up.
“Unfortunately, this now means our taxes and utilities will need to increase to well above what the average single-family dwelling pays within the region to make up for the difference,” reads the budget.
Police taxation is also expected to increase 11 per cent to $325.75 a year due to the updated RCMP collective bargaining agreement, and taxation for the fire department is expected to increase 32 per cent to $226.26 due to the need to replace the department’s 2005 engine.
The increases in the budget are also separate from any increases set by other levels of government, the school district or the hospital district.
The budget process included a special meeting for the public to weigh in on Sept. 12, where concerns were voiced about the impact the increases in the budget would have on residents and businesses.
The town will also be reviewing and updating its development cost charges bylaw in 2024, with the current version not having been reviewed since 2016.