Lake Country budget proposes 3.5 per cent hike

The financial plan will be presented to council tonight

The District of Lake Country is proposing a 3.5 per cent property tax increase in its draft 2018 financial plan.

The district is beginning its budget deliberations and the tax increase of 3.5 per cent would include 1.5 per cent which will go towards the district’s Transportation for Tomorrow plan.

The operating budget for 2018 is predicted to be $28.44 million, $12.1 million of which is raised in property taxes.

With the recent flooding and fires in Lake Country, district staff is recommending for council to continue putting funds aside for emergencies saying the response to emergencies last year means reserves are a “pressing need” for the district.

“It’s a big topic all over the province, making sure that local governments are putting money aside for emergencies,” said Tanya Garost, chief financial officer.

“So our reserve policy indicates we should continue to put money aside and have a minimum balance that we need to meet and we’re not there yet,” she said, noting that there will be a recommendation made to council to save surplus funds for emergencies, she said.

The district says it would like to have $2.4 million in reserves while currently it sits closer to $1.6 million.

The plan also outlines an alternative option of increasing taxes by one per cent to continue growing the emergency reserves.

With Lake Country’s growing population, the draft outlines an increase in RCMP payments.

The district is currently paying 70 per cent of RCMP costs, but with an expected population rise to more than 15,000, the share will increase to 90 per cent.

Garost expects a tax increase to compensate won’t take effect until 2022 after the next census, but the district is putting money aside starting in 2019 to prepare.

The tax increase could be as much as two per cent to fund the RCMP, she said.

Pelmewash Parkway is also coming under the district’s jurisdiction in 2018.

Upgrades will be implemented to the road to move it “to move to a local standard,” said Garost.

Some funds have been added to the budget for maintenance and upgrades.

It’s only the start of the budgetting process in Lake Country. There will be public information sessions in December and January before the budget is finally approved Feb. 20, 2018

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