Not a single Rossland resident surveyed suggested reducing taxes over the next four years.
Terry Miller, principal consultant with T. Miller & Associates, recently presented the findings of public input sessions regarding property taxes for 2017-2020 to council, and the findings show that while some participants suggested the tax rate should remain the same, none suggested a decrease in the tax rate.
“According to this sample there was certainly some … understanding at least that taxes needed to go up to reflect the costs of running the city,” Miller told the News.
In total, 74 taxpayers participated in the public input sessions — 45 who were chosen as a random sample and 28 of whom were approached online. Miller noted during his presentation that as the sessions were not open to the public, the group was technically not a representative sample.
Of the 74 participants, the majority were between 36 and 65 years old and have been living in Rossland for over six years. Miller also noted that “assessed value of homes and household income might suggest this sample has a slightly higher economic standing than [the] average Rosslander.”
Participants were asked a number of questions, including “What is your recommended tax rate increase/decrease?” Surprisingly none recommended a decrease, and for 2017 the median recommended tax increase was approximately five per cent, while for 2018 it was four per cent, for 2019 it was three per cent and for 2020 it was approximately 3.5 per cent.
Before participating, each taxpayer was provided with a 13-page background document, which included the tax increase that would be necessary if the City of Rossland maintains its current spending: 10 per cent in 2017, seven per cent in 2018, four per cent in 2019 and five per cent in 2020.
In the interest of giving city council insight into which services might be cut, participants were also asked to answer the question, “What tax-funded programs, services or supports do you feel are more (or less) important to our community?”
The results suggest council still has many difficult choices ahead. When it came to recreational facilities like the arena and the pool, or to Rossland’s recreational programs, participants all offered diverse opinions on the importance to the community and how many people they thought benefited. On the other hand, the majority of people rated the Miners’ Hall and trails as important and benefiting at least a moderate number of people.
When it came to city funded community support, the library and Tourism Rossland both received support, though some people rate them as less important and benefiting few people. Participant response to the museum was more diverse.
Finally, participants were also asked to give their top and secondary recommendations for reducing taxes.
“Then in the software, there was a button that asked them to say, ‘What was your recommendation related to?’” explained Miller.
When it came to recreation, most participants made recommendations related to financial implications. For instance, “make programs with appropriate user fees to offset programs” or “do careful analysis of actual community usage.”
In regards to city administration, recommendations were related to financial implications, how the service is being managed, and how relevant participants felt the service was to Rosslanders — some recommendations were marked as being related to all three at once — with many calling for cuts to administration costs.
Recommendations regarding shared regional services were more mixed, but many suggested renegotiating to have Rossland’s tax contribution based on population or number of homes, rather than having it based on assessment values.