Sent: Monday, June 11, 2018 9:51 AM
Subject: RDOS Property taxes
From: Stephen Rollison
To: Minister Selina Robinson, MLA Linda Larson, RDOS, Area “C” Terry Schafer.
I would like an explanation on the huge increase in my property taxes this year. The increase is $2868.54 in one year.
The largest increase is for the Willowbrook Volunteer Fire Dept: 2017 $459.46 to 2018 $2,294.92
How is this possible? Why was there no warning? I now only have three weeks to find an extra $2800. Is this a onetime payment?
The RDOS budget suggests that this is on an ongoing increase for the next five years (we had no information, consultation or details). This would make a total of $11,474.60 just for a volunteer fire service (without any other yearly increase added).
Can I opt out of the service (it would be far cheaper to pay for increased insurance coverage)? Why are property owners paying different amounts?
If you have farm status do you pay a lower rate even if they have more buildings? The increase appears to be for a new fire truck costing $500,000. Who decided to purchase this truck and why?
How many properties are there in the Willowbrook Fire Dept. area? I am paying 2% (1/50) of the total cost of the new truck, does this mean there are only 50 properties in the area?
Was there no grants or money available from other levels of government? Were lease options for the new fire truck considered? Why has there been a complete lack of consultation, information or consideration for tax payers.
From: Ministry of Municipal Affairs
Sent: June 29, 2018 2:40 PM
To: Steve Rollison
Subject: RE: RDOS Property taxes
Thank you for the email addressed to Minister Selina Robinson, regarding the Willowbrook Fire Service. As a Financial Officer within the Local Government Finance department, I am pleased to respond on the Minister’s behalf. In your email you express concerns regarding the increase in Willowbrook fire service taxes for the year, 2018.
It is unfortunate you were not aware of the large increase in property tax or budget increase for Willowbrook fire service. If an aspect of a service changes significantly, I typically recommend local governments provide some notice to the property owners that are affected by the change. That said, it is ultimately up to the local government on how best to circulate this kind of information to residents.
The Province sets the legislative framework that local governments must work within (Local Government Act and Community Charter). Within the set framework, local governments must adhere to certain statutory requirements. For example, local governments must undergo public consultation prior to adopting the financial plan (i.e. 2018 budget), or they must receive electoral approval to acquire a loan with a term longer than 5 years. Although, the Province sets certain requirements and a framework to follow, the legislation also acknowledges local governments are autonomous, and in the best position to make decisions reading local services and balance the needs of the community. Therefore, the majority of local services like fire, water, sewer, recreation are administered and operated by the respective local government.
With respect to public consultation regarding the financial plan, residents should be provided the opportunity to review the budget, ask questions, and provide input. The Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen (RDOS) held a public meeting on January 29, 2018 to discuss the 2018 budget and cost increase for Willowbrook fire service. Based on your email it sounds like the 2018 budget information may have not reached all residents. If you were unaware of the financial plan consultation period and did not receive any information about the Willowbrook fire service you may want to touch base with RDOS staff and ask how best to obtain future information regarding public meeting notices and consultations, or peruse their website for public notices.
I looked at the RDOS budget for 2018 and noted a few reasons for cost increases: 1) the prior year deficit was rolled over ($40,000), 2) purchase of a fire truck (repayment of debt/lease), 3) increase in wages and benefits (approximately $40,000), 4) reserve contributions ($10,000). Based on the budget, RDOS plans to acquire the truck in 2019 and the lease / debt repayment are not planned to occur until 2019. The estimated 2019 debt repayment for a $500,000 fire truck is approximately $33,600. The proposed fire truck acquisition may be required if the current truck(s) is at the end of its useful life. The increase in wages may be due to increase training and compensation costs. I am not familiar with fire department requirements or regulations, but I believe the Provincial Playbook / Fire Service Act was recently amended and requires all fire departments to provide a certain level of training. If you have any questions regarding the budget and service provision requirements, I recommend reaching out to RDOS or the local fire department as they are in the best position to answer budget and service related questions.
The regional district may recover costs of a service by fees, parcel tax, property value tax, or grants and gifts, if available. The primary method used to recover the cost of Willowbrook fire service is property value tax (grants may also be used if they become available). The property tax you pay is based on the value of your property. For 2018, the average residential property increase for the fire service in Willowbrook is approximately $950. Taxes will vary from one property to the next because of the assessed value of a property. Your property tax may be higher than other properties in your area if the assessed value of your property increased more than the average. For example, if the 2018 assessed value of your property increase by 20%, but the average increase in assessed value is 10% in your service area you will pay a higher percentage of tax. A common challenge for smaller communities is that the costs of a service are only shared among a small tax base. Typically, fire service is a costly due to the equipment and training that is needed. Additionally, the Willowbrook water service can also be costly due to infrastructure costs to ensure clean drinking water.
Willowbrook fire service area has 225 properties. Out of the 225 properties there are 170 are residential properties (class1), 35 farm (class 9), 1 business (class 6), 1 light industry (class 5), and 18 utilities (class 2). The majority of the fire service costs are shared amongst the 170 residential properties. Properties that have farmland status may be eligible to receive a school tax credit of 50%. I have included a link for information on paying your property taxes. Unless you are eligible to defer your property tax, you will have to pay the full amount (less the home owner grant) by the due date to avoid the penalty. https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/taxes/property-taxes/annual-property-tax/pay
As for opting out of a service, you would have to submit a request to the regional district board. That said, properties are generally not taken out of a service unless the property cannot be serviced. Fire departments provide other services in many emergency situations so you may benefit from the service in other ways.
The 2018 Five Year Financial plan budget shows a budget of approximately $200,000 over the next five years and the reason for this could be a number of things. The RDOS is in the best position to explain the changes as they have the knowledge and expertise regarding the service. I encourage you to discuss with RDOS staff the changes made to the service costs and whether there is an opportunity to revisit the Willowbrook fire service budget for possible amendments.
On another note, if you have questions about the assessment of your property you may want to reach out to BC Assessment toll free at 1-866-825-8322
Local Government Infrastructure and Finance
Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing