Victoria council OKs surplus cash to reduce property tax bump

Residential property tax hikes expected to decrease from the expected 4.2 per cent to about 2.67 per cent.

Residential property taxes will rise less than expected for the average Victoria resident in 2014, thanks to unexpected revenue at the City of Victoria.

The city will use $800,000 in surplus assessment revenue to decrease residential property tax hikes from the expected 4.2 per cent to about 2.67 per cent. The move translates to approximately a $50 increase for the average homeowner.

“New construction is much higher than anticipated, which really is a good news story,” said Brenda Warner, the city’s finance director at a committee meeting Thursday.

Business property tax will increase about 2.3 per cent, or $150 on average, from 2013.

The found cash comes from permit fees connected to new construction, demolitions and class changes over the past year.

The city is also using $350,000 in surplus from the 2013 budget to create an expedited planning approval process, while another $3 million will be allocated to the city’s building and infrastructure reserve.

“All the hard work we’ve been doing to attract new development and get investment in our downtown is paying off,” said Mayor Dean Fortin. “We’re in a good place.”

Utility fees, however, will rise another $60 on top of the average $850 paid by homeowners last year, an increase of nearly seven per cent.

“Our utility rates have started going up … and we don’t know where costs are going to go on regional sewage treatment. That’s an evolving story,” said Coun. Geoff Young at the preliminary budget approval meeting.

Council still doesn’t have clarity on expected revenue from properties it received as a result of the dissolution of the Provincial Capital Commission, including Crystal Garden and a parking lot below Wharf Street.

Community associations will also receive up to $45,000 from surplus revenue for the upcoming year.

The 2014 budget marks the end of a three-year shift to better balance the tax share burden between residential and commercial properties.

The city will now begin a public consultation process before approving the 2014-2018 financial plan.