Property taxes in Inuvik could be increasing by 1.5 per cent as the Town of Inuvik passed its final 2020 operating and capital budgets and moved a property tax bylaw to second reading at a July 30 special meeting.
In three separate votes, councillors voted 5-1, with deputy mayor Paul MacDonald against and Couns. Dez Loreen and Kurt Wainman absent, to both approve the budgets and move the property tax bylaw to second reading. Councillors will decide on whether to make the tax increase official at their next regular meeting, scheduled for August 12.
Noting the interim budget had initially planned to increase property taxes by four per cent, Coun. Gary McBride — who is also the Chief Financial Officer for Beaufort District Education Council — praised the budget.
“This is actually a very lean budget,” he said. “There is not a lot of room for cuts without talking about a reduction of services to the public.
“This budget runs pretty lean in all departments.”
Under the proposed increase, a house valued at $250,000 will taxed $4112.50 for the year. A commercial property of the same value would net $5265 in taxes.
Coun. Alana Mero said the town needed to prepare for unknown circumstances and should stick to its guns with the budget.
“I would be reluctant to change anything when we still don’t really know where we’re going (with the pandemic),” she said. “We could be in for a much longer ride than we thought.”
Town’s projected deficit drops $48,000
Town senior administrative officer Grant Hood told council the town experienced several revenue shortfalls and windfalls as a result of the Covid-19 restrictions, resulting in a drop from a projected $50,000 deficit to just a deficit of $2,000.
As an example, revenue lost by hosting the Arctic Development Expo was offset by recovered operating costs that had been budgeted for the event.
A number of projects fell off the agenda because of the pandemic, including planned engineering work on the utilidor system — where $2,750,000 was deferred until next year. However, a new SCADA system to monitor the flow and quality of the system is being purchased for $330,000. The town is also setting aside $737,451 for future projects on the system.
One area where Covid-19 saved the town a great deal of money was in not hiring casual staff — to the tune of $178,000 across departments. Administration also proposed deferring $33,000 in advertising revenue to next year. The loss of summer lotteries and bingos cost the town $35,000.
Other revelations from the budget presentation include the clean up of a recent fire, which increased the town’s lot cleanup estimate to $75,000. The town also increased the budget for the Gateway Tourism sign by $26,000.
Hood noted the town had received one bid for the sign from a local company, but the bid was 30 per cent higher than the other bids and the contractor did not want to negotiate the price any lower.
Other capital purchases include a utility trailer at $20,000, a utility boat at $3,000 and a new network server for the town’s administrative duties for $35,000.
Repairing the pool with cost the town $150,000 — the leak from the pool cost the town a significant amount in heating expenses.
Inuvik Drum has requested a detailed copy of the final budget. Hood said the budget would be posted in its entirety on the town’s website next week.