May. 5, 2016

Predicting your tax bill is tricky business

It is dangerous to make projections about property tax bills because there are so many variable components. 

Everything we have seen in the media to date is only a portion of your tax bill. It's not time yet to take comfort in the fact that the city has pledged there will be no increase in the tax RATE. Therefore, if your property assessment increased more than the average increase, you will still see a rise in your city taxes. And if your assessment is lower than the average increase, you should expect to see a decrease.

That does not include the fee-for-service charges which the city has increased significantly – for water and garbage services.

That's the easy part of the tax bill. There are many moving parts that determine what you end up paying. The city isn't the only entity which makes up your tax bill. There are "Levies collected on behalf of other agencies."

The Municipal Finance Authority.

Nanaimo Regional District General

Nanaimo Regional District Parks

Nanaimo Regional District Sewer Benefitting Area

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital District

Regional Parks and Trails Parcel Tax

Vancouver Island Regional Library

Then there's the really big elephant in the room - school taxes collected on behalf of the Province of B.C. 

Even though you city tax bill might not change, those other seven agencies can throw things off dramatically. And since the school district's budget has not been finalized by the provincial education ministry, that aspect remains unknown. Most of the discussion outside the board room to date indicates that the school district needs more money.

So a word of caution. Until you actually see the amount of your total tax bill, don't go out and buy that fancy new boat. You may be in for a surprise.

Merv Unger is a retired journalist and former city councillor in Nanaimo.