Rossland Council debates 2018 tax increase

Rossland property taxes could increase as much as 4.8 per cent in 2018.

Rossland property taxes could increase as much as 4.8 per cent in 2018, though Rossland City Council has taken actions to try to limit the jump.

At Monday night’s council meeting, council considered raising the 2018 property tax increase from the 4.0 per cent set out in the 2017-2021 Financial Plan to 4.8 per cent in the 2018-2022 Financial Plan. And while council did vote to do so, they then also voted to have staff defer the Trail Master Plan (budgeted cost: $20,000) and the Design Guideline Review requested by the Rossland Design Review Committee (budgeted cost: $30,000), for a total budgeted savings of $50,000.

As raising the property tax increase from 4.0 per cent to 4.8 per cent would increase the budget $34,000, the additional increase shouldn’t be needed after factoring in the differed projects, but staff will need to review the budget to be sure.

These are of course early days in the discussion of the 2018-2022 Financial Plan and staff was only looking for guidance from council.

Coun. Lloyd McLellan took the stance that raising the increase would be fiscally responsible.

“We’re in the last year of the term and I think we’ve got to be fiscally responsible. You know, we’ve got these expenses, we’ve introduced some initiatives that we want to get done and we’ve got to have the money to do it. And we’ll probably get our reserves back in place,” he said.

Coun. Marten Kruysse was opposed to the increase, arguing that it could be hard for households with an income under $50,000.

“Twenty-eight per cent of our population — so almost one in three of our households — have household incomes of less than $50,000. To me that’s a problem, because these people, in the most part, a lot of them have kids, are spending every dollar to live,” he said. ‘

Mayor Kathy Moore acknowledged Kruysse’s concerns but also pointed out that lower-income households were more likely to rent housing or own houses with a lower assessed value.

Rossland council’s recommendations to province on marijuana

Council heard from Jeff Weaver, owner of the Rossland Dispensary, in regards to the letter it is sending to Mike Farnsworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, with its position on future rules and regulations to legislate cannabis.

Weaver made the argument that sales should be made through private retailers licensed as “owner-operators,” and while council decided to amend the draft version of its letter to ask that medical and recreational distribution should be kept separate, Weaver felt the divide would ultimately hurt medical dispensaries.

“If we look at other jurisdictions, those medical entrepreneurs were just cannibalized by the recreational side,” he said, referring to examples from the U.S.

In its letter, council argues that both density of cannabis outlets and where cannabis can be publicly consumed should be left to the discretion of municipal governments. Density would be controlled through licensing and zoning, while public consumption would be dealt with similar to smoking tobacco.

Council also attached Weaver’s written feedback as part of its letter.

New rules for short-term rentals

Council adopted both a new business license bylaw and a zoning amendment, which introduced new rules for short-term home rentals. The new rules will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018, and anyone with questions about how to comply with the new regulations should contact City Hall to start the process.

The new business license bylaw also included changes to business license fees.

Full-service restaurants and bars, and short-term rentals with one or two guest rooms will pay $150, short-term rentals with three or more guest rooms or a guest home will now pay $250. Retailers, non-licensed restaurants, liquor stores, beer and wine stores, professional or contract services and others will pay $125, while mobile vendors, door-to-door sales and home-based businesses will pay $75.

There is also a $40 new application inspection fee, as well as additional costs for short-term renters.

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