By Michael Piasetzki

It’s the time of year again when the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George approves the 2022 operating budget and presents a five-year financial plan.

Of utmost interest to Valemount and McBride residents concerning the budget is how it will affect their respective tax situations and in particular, how much they will have to dish out. The answer to that question is complicated.

In Valemount, homeowners will see a 13.5 percent decrease in their tax rate, having to pay the Regional District $224.31 on a home assessed at $100,000, down $34.95 from last year. In McBride, homeowners will see a decrease of 8.7 percent, having to pay $348.64 per $100,000, down $33.27.

Residents living in Robson and Canoe Valley rural areas will pay $110.51 per $100,000 of assessed value, down $14.08.

The tax rate in the Robson Valley is going down, but residents may not see a corresponding decrease to their taxes. The reason is because housing assessments have risen by an average of 18.4 per cent this year.

“Because people’s assessments have gone up, their overall tax bill is going to remain the same or be increased by a small amount,” said Danielle Alan, the Regional District Representative for Canoe Valley.

“It’s just the way the figures work out, due to reasons out of our control.”

Alan would ideally like to see the growth in our area offset any increases in the cost of services, but that’s not always possible.

“Our budget has gone up a little over two percent, which is not too bad considering there was a zero percent increase last year due to the COVID-19 crisis.”

She said everybody is frightened because the assessments have gone crazy, especially in and around Valemount.

But she said many tax bills will remain the same or only go up by a small amount.

Valemount Mayor Owen Torgerson, who sits on the Regional District board, said the budget is the bare minimum of what the regional district needs.

“The indexed points of consideration were basically the cost of living. The cost of doing business is on the increase,” he said. “So local governments have to try to keep stride.”

The district’s total expenditures for the 92 services it provides will cost $57.8 million this year. Of that, $20.6 million will be funded through property taxation, which is an increase of $535,414 or about 2.67 per cent more than in 2021. According to the district, the rest will come from grants, user fees, and the use of reserve funds.

Significant 2022 budgeted expenditures provided by the Regional District include solid waste management ($23 million), 9-1-1 emergency response services ($8 million), protective services ($7.3 million), and recreational and cultural services ($5 million).

The Regional Hospital District budget for 2022 was set at $30.5 million, with $17,769 coming from property taxation.

“The Prince George regional hospital needs a new surgical care tower,” Allan said. “That’s a billion-dollar project. We have to make sure if we at least have enough money in reserve to pay for the interest on the loan we take out to pay for it.”