While the village office is still closed due to COVID-19, council held their regular meeting in the building but in a room that allowed for social distancing last Tuesday. (Marisca Bakker photo)

While the village office is still closed due to COVID-19, council held their regular meeting in the building but in a room that allowed for social distancing last Tuesday. (Marisca Bakker photo)

Telkwa not raising taxes this year

Mayor and Council to get long over due raise

The Village of Telkwa is not raising taxes this year and Mayor Brad Layton is happy about that.

“I’ve been pushing since I become mayor and even when I was a councillor to be a strong voice, along with other councillors, to not raise our taxes and we’ve been successful again this year,” said Layton.

The Village also reduced the mill rate so the average homeowner won’t see a jump in their property tax bill.

“We just did the first part of the by-law to set the mill rate, which is down to make sure people who had their assessments go up by the average, which was 13.8 [per cent] average assessment increase, so people who ended up on that average will pay the exact same tax they did last year even with the increase but if yours went up more than 13.8 per cent, you end up paying more taxes but not because we raised them just because your house value went up more than the average,” added Layton.

People whose assessments went up by less than the average will see a smaller tax bill this year over last.

However, water rates will be increasing by two per cent, but there will be no increase to sewer rates.

Also in the budget, mayor and council will be getting a raise.

The annual remuneration allotted to the mayor will be increased to $16, 063 and councillors will now get $8,032. Last year, the Mayor recieved $10,800 and councillors each got $6,000.

Layton said this is a long time coming.

“At least 16 years since there has been no vote for a raise,” he said. “I’ve been in council for three terms and we’ve talked about it in other years but we just felt the town didn’t have the money. But we’ve had people saying that they are putting more time in than they get paid.”

Councillor Rick Fuerst made a motion to scrap the pay raise for this year, but it died for lack of a seconder.

“I know we’ve had the discussion that it is a long time coming and we are trying to take the initiative so that next council coming in doesn’t have that pressure on them, but just in light of what is happening with COVID-19 and the financial burden that is put on with the taxpayers already and people not so sure what is going on with their jobs, I think we might want to remove that piece. We aren’t talking about a lot of money but I don’t like the message it sends,” Fuerst said.

Layton added this will also help attract people to run for council. In the last municipal election and in the recent by-election for council, all council members ran unopposed.

“If you are only paying the low amount that Telkwa was, you have to be rich or retired to be able to afford to be able to do the position. It is hard to get young people involved because they can’t pay their bills. If they are getting paid $500 a month and putting a $1,000 worth of time, it is deficit,” said Layton.

He added that village staff did some research to determine remuneration rates.

“We didn’t even go to the average,” he said. “Staff gave us a listing of the communities around our size and we didn’t even go up to the average of what other communities are paying their councillors.”

Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, The Village of Telkwa is keeping the penalty by-law in place and not giving tax payers any leeway on paying their bills.

Councillor Leroy Dekens said Telkwa can’t afford to do that.

“This is the money for our operating budget,” he said.

At this point, Mayor Brad Layton said the Village has not had to make adjustments because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Village is looking into accepting credit cards.

Smithers Interior News