District of Squamish amends financial plan in response to COVID-19

District of Squamish Council has adopted an amended financial plan that seeks to reflect the realities of the community in relation to the new circumstances presented by COVID-19. The original financial plan for 2020 to 2024 was adopted in February of this year.

Under the original financial plan the District was anticipating a 1.96% increase in property tax revenue required in 2020 over 2019 once non-market change (growth in the overall tax base) was factored in. The amended financial plan reflects a decrease in property tax revenue required of 2.8% ($838,800) over what had previously been planned for 2020. Once non-market change (growth in the overall tax base) is factored in, the 2020 financial plan now results in an overall decrease in property tax revenue required of 0.8% from 2019 levels. The per household and business impact will vary depending on property assessments (which are provided by BC Assessment) and the final tax rates.

“There are many priorities we have tried to balance in this financial plan amendment, recognizing that we must be resilient and aim to ensure community services and operations continue to support the community in the short, medium and long term,” says District of Squamish Mayor Karen Elliott.  “And in a time when household finances and business cash flows are challenged, we are doing what we can to ease that burden.”

Property tax and utility notices are set to be mailed out mid May. Late penalties have been relaxed this year in line with the provincial commercial tax dates to reflect the financial hardships many citizens are currently facing. Property taxes and utilities for both business and residential property owners are due July 2, but penalties will not be applied on late payments until October 1, 2020.

A number of capital and operating projects that can no longer be completed this year due to delays caused by the pandemic have been removed from the budget. Additional capital projects due to be funded through borrowing or other means that did not impact property tax have also been removed which will reduce debt servicing in the 2021 budget. The analysis for this financial plan amendment did, however, prioritize the long-term maintenance, replacement or development of infrastructure through the continued focus on master plan recommendations and timelines.

Utility budgets have not changed in order to maintain essential water, sewer and solid waste services.

“It is important that we do not drop too much in 2020 as this could create a bigger challenge for the District and our citizens in 2021 and beyond, so our goal has been to smooth out the impact as much as possible,” continues Elliott. “We know the community will expect that we are ready to pick up the pace quickly once we all adjust to the new normal, and that understanding is a factor in our decision-making. While we are trying to ease the financial burden on those struggling due to the pandemic, I would ask citizens and businesses who can, to please pay their taxes on time. As our primary source of revenue, timely payment of property taxes helps us to manage our cash flow to provide community services and have the ability to respond as this pandemic unfolds in the months to come.”

Delayed recruiting for staff vacancies and any new positions that can be postponed also contributes to the decrease, as well as reducing travel and conference budgets and various special operating projects that will be delayed due to COVID-19 related factors.

The District has also reviewed tax rates and ratios for 2020. For 2020, the non-market change (growth) in assessment base across the District of Squamish has grown by 3.6%. This growth, combined with the financial plan amendments described above, results in a 0.5% drop in the actual tax rates from 2019. The change in tax rates will impact homes and businesses differently, depending upon their most recent property assessment and how that changed over the prior year. A property tax calculator and new tax rates will be loaded into Squamish.ca in the coming days.

Visit Squamish.ca/budget for Tuesday’s Council presentation (PowerPoint) containing a full list of items removed from the financial plan as well as tax rates and ratios.

May 6, 2020

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