The District of Fort St. James plans to raise taxes by 7 per cent in 2022, that includes a 4.5 per cent hike to the tax rate of residential properties. District CAO David Schroeter said that remains below the tax rate of “most other municipalities” in the region.
Schroeter said the increases are in response to “several years of limited or inadequate tax increases” that caused deficits until new tax revenue from industry was received back in 2016.
“Moving forward the District of Fort St. James is taking steps to maintain service levels, implement asset management practices, and build our long-term reserves to reduce the financial risk of failing infrastructure,” Schroeter said.
Highlights of the current budget plans include investments into wastewater, roads, recreation, parks, and sidewalks that Schroeter said will address public feedback from the most recent budget survey.
The district said it is investing $1.2 million for road improvements over 5 years while supporting the Nak’azdli Whut’en First Nation on a new wastewater facility to “improve water quality and address historic concerns.”
Another focus will be emergency preparedness, and to implement FireSmart principles to guard against wildfires. The budget promises to tackle access to affordable housing, address asset deficits and invest in public spaces.
Public consultations were held on an upcoming tax bylaw to establish the new rates for the municipality, regional district and hospital district. Now that public input is closed council is expected to pass the bylaw after its final reading.
Mayor Bob Motion said Fort St. James will maintain a “strong financial position” through investments and withdrawals from reserve funds.