Former Penticton MLA Rick Thorpe and current MLA Dan Ashton have deep concerns about the impact the city’s proposed 8.7 per cent property tax hike will have on seniors and those on a fixed income.
Thorpe, who was the Okanagan-Penticton MLA from 1996 to 2009, also thinks small businesses might not be able to shoulder the increase in these ‘difficult times.’
He’s gone through the budget with a fine tooth comb and found ways he says that city council could use to bring down the tax hike to a 3.5 per cent increase.
“Now it is time for the mayor and council to start thinking like a taxpayer. An 8.7 per cent tax increase is not acceptable in these difficult times and people can’t absorb that kind of cost. The mayor and council working together with city staff should bring forward a budget in the range of 3 to 3.5 per cent.”
If the 8.7 per cent increase goes ahead, it will cost the average homeowner $175 more in taxes while businesses will pay $678 more in 2024.
Thorpe has a couple of suggestions on how the city can bring the increase down and has shared his views with most council members.
City staff are proposing to repay the outstanding deferral of $2.4 million from 2022’s budget in full in 2024.
If the city were to phase the deferred taxes in over three years at $800,000 per year, the impact to the 2024 budget is a reduction of $1.6 million and a reduction in the 2024 tax rate of 3.76 per cent, said Thorpe.
Thorpe, who was vice-chair of the Treasury Board for seven years was also chair of Revenue Canada for four years. He said the city should also revisit whether they should hire nine new staff.
He also wants to remind the council that the Lake to Lake bike lane project repayment schedule was over 10 years. Now staff are proposing to pay it down in three years.
“When the Bank of Canada is warning all levels of government to temper their spending, I think it’s time to listen,” said Thorpe about the city’s upcoming capital projects.
Ashton, who was Penticton’s mayor in the economic downturn of 2008, said the council needs to take a real ‘sober second look’ at the proposed 8.7 per cent tax hike and consider going back to a zero-based budget and work from there.
“Council and staff have to listen to what is transpiring in B.C., Canada and the whole world. This tax hike, coupled with the electrical, water and sewer rates going up – the vast majority of Penticton residents can’t shoulder that,” said Ashton.
“They need to look line by line for savings.”
Ashton said he has met with Thorpe about what he proposes to bring the tax hike down.
As a B.C. cabinet minister Thorpe was responsible for reducing red tape and making it easier for people to deal with the government.
“Rick’s got a lot of good ideas here and I think council should listen to that,” he added.