What you can expect on property taxes all over the Island

Property-tax notices have been landing in Island mailboxes over the past few weeks, and it’s time for homeowners to pony up the cash that keeps villages, towns and cities operating over the next fiscal year.

But because of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, exactly how much more you owe, when you have to pay it and how you make the transaction will depend on where you live.

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The pandemic has seen various councils cut tax increases — some even keeping them at zero. But it comes at a cost.

In some areas, capital projects are being deferred and new hirings are being postponed. Financial reserves are being tapped or not replenished to make up for shortfalls. And some services are being reduced or eliminated.

The City of Victoria, for example, said in a report it faces revenue losses ranging from $6 million to $22 million, depending on how long the pandemic lasts. Council decided to defer more than $20 million worth of capital projects and reduce the amount of money it places in reserves in order to help residents and businesses.

In Ucluelet, proposed changes to the town’s budget in light of reduced tax increases might include delaying upgrades to the community cemetery and firehall renovations as well as reductions in recreation services.

Tofino council has decided to axe upgrades to its community hall, a new vehicle for its fire department and some road upgrades. It has also put a freeze on all new hiring.

In Colwood, which reduced its planned increase of 3.5 per cent to zero, transfers to reserve funds won’t happen and neither will the portion of tax usually allocated for infrastructure replacements.

Langford cut its tax increase nearly in half to 1.9 per cent, but director of finance Michael Dillabaugh said residents won’t see any changes to major services. Some capital projects will be deferred to next year, while others will be funded through reserves. He added that cuts to travel and training for staff will also help to offset the shortfall.

Tax deadlines without penalties have been extended in some municipalities until Oct.1, far from the usual first business day after July 1.

And deferrals are expected to increase in light of the pandemic.

In a post, the Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria said 9,896 property owners deferred almost $40 million in taxes in the 13 municipalities of the capital region in 2019, according to a freedom of information request filed with the B.C. Ministry of Finance.

Stan Bartlett, chairman of the advocacy group, noted there had only been 5,092 deferrals valued at $16.2 million since 2010 up until then, noting the number of deferrals has almost doubled and the dollar value has increased by about 250 per cent.

“With tax increases in the capital region usually exceeding inflation by two or three hundred per cent, expensive house prices, and the population aging, it’s expected the tax-deferral program will only increase in popularity,” Bartlett said.

The provincial government is also making it easier to defer taxes. Municipalities are no longer responsible for accepting deferment applications.

Residential owners can now apply online and, for the first time, owners can choose to automatically renew their applications.

With COVID-19 fears and some cities and municipalities restricting access to city and town halls, payments can be made through the mail, banks and online portals, or many communities have secure drop boxes for payments.

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Esquimalt Municipal Hall mailbox for taxes. - DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Here’s a rundown of what you can expect in some Island communities:

Port Hardy

Council approved a 1.97 per cent increase in property taxes, down from the original 4.2 per cent. Officials there cited the eight-month forestry strike for lowering taxes and easing the burden on families and businesses dependent on the sector. A 10 per cent penalty for late payments has been deferred to Oct. 1.

Port Alice

The village is increasing property taxes by 6 per cent. Payments can be made online or at the village hall.

Campbell River

Property taxes are increasing by 2.9 per cent, up $79 for an average home. Payments can be made via a drive-through drop box or in person at city hall starting Monday.

Gold River

Residents of the former mill town will see a 7 per cent increase, after 3 per cent and 2 per cent increases the previous two years. A 10 per cent penalty will be deferred to Oct. 1. Payments are limited to Canada Post and a mail slot at the village office.

Courtenay

Council approved a 3.22 per cent property tax increase on April 6 — a $47.54 increase for an average single-family home. Payments can be made via a secure drop box at city hall. There will be a 10 per cent penalty after the July 2 due date.

Parksville

The community has until Sept. 30 to pay property taxes. Between Oct.1 and Nov. 30, late taxes will result in a 5 per cent penalty. For payments after Nov. 30, it’s a 10 per cent penalty. City hall is open for payments.

Qualicum Beach

Property taxes are due July 2, but penalties are being waived until Oct. 1, when 1 per cent will be applied. Taxes received after Dec. 1 are subject to a 9 per cent penalty. Qualicum Beach is still considering opening up its town hall for payments. Residents can also use the mail slot there.

Nanaimo

Harbour City residents will see a 4.5 per cent increase, down from an original plan of 5.2 per cent and a proposed reduction of 3.8 per cent The increase includes a 3.5 per cent property tax increase and 1 per cent for the city’s general asset reserve. The city said the 3.5 per cent hike adds $95 per year in property taxes for a typical household in Nanaimo. Payments can be made at a pop-up tax-payment centre in Beban Park at the Frank Crane Arena box office.

Ladysmith

Council voted for a 1.92 per cent increase in property taxes. Payments are due July 2, but penalties on late payments won’t go into effect until October. Payments can be made at the town hall.

Duncan

Taxes are due July 2, but penalties won’t be imposed until Oct. 1. City hall in Duncan is open for payments and North Cowichan’s municipal hall will be open starting Monday.

Tofino

The town has a July 2 due date for property taxes, but has delayed penalties for late payments to Oct. 1, when 10 per cent penalties will be imposed. It expects to collect about $3.67 million in taxes, about 20 per cent less than the previous year.

Ucluelet

Property taxes are due July 2, but residents will have until Oct. 1 before a 10 per cent penalty kicks in. The town prefers online or drop-box payments to ensure safe social distancing at the district office.

Port Alberni

Property taxes will increase 1.1 per cent, down from a previously proposed 4.3 per cent hike. Payments can be made at a payment booth in the foyer at city hall. The rest of the building is closed.

Victoria

Property tax increases are being reduced to 0 per cent from an earlier proposed increase of 3.5 per cent. That will save an average property owner about $85 this year, and a business $237. Other measures adopted by council include pushing back the tax due date to Aug. 4, and staggering the penalties for late payment of property taxes over five months instead of two to reduce the burden on people unable to pay on time. 

City hall is closed but payments can be dropped in a secure drop box. Residents can make an appointment to pay property taxes in-person at city hall Monday to Friday between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Other payment options exist, including secure drop box, online banking, by mail, at financial institutions, through your mortgage company and by pre-authorized payments.

Langford

The region’s fastest-growing municipality had originally planned a 3.49 per cent increase, but shaved it to 1.9 per cent after the pandemic hit. Property taxes are due July 2 and can be paid in person at city hall or at a secure dropbox outside. A 5 per cent penalty will be applied Aug. 1, with an additional 5 per cent after Oct. 1.

Highlands

Property taxes are due July 2, with 5 per cent penalties if it’s paid after Aug. 4 and an additional 5 per cent after Oct. 1. For businesses, it’s a 10 per cent penalty after Oct. 1. In-person payments and secure drop box are available at district hall.

Metchosin

Property taxes are due by July 2 and can be paid in person through a secure walk-up window. There is also a drop box at municipal hall. Outstanding balances after July 2 are subject to a 1 per cent penalty. After Sept. 30, it’s a 9 per cent penalty.

Saanich

Originally planning a 7.2 per cent increase, the municipality reduced it to 3.74 per cent in March and then 2.4 per cent in April. It’s now about $65 more than the average homeowner paid in 2019. The municipal hall is closed, but payments can be dropped off in a secure lock box.

Colwood

No tax increase this year. The original proposal called for a 3.5 per cent increase in 2020. To bring it to zero, council said service-level increases will be delayed until next year. Residents are encouraged to pay online or make an appointment if they pay in person at city hall.

Oak Bay

Council reduced its overall budget by 1.2 per cent in April. That means property owners will pay an average increase of $17, compared to the original $24 increase. The due date has been extended by a month to Aug. 4. After that, a 5 per cent penalty will be levied. A further 5 per cent penalty will be added Oct. 2. With the municipal hall closed due to the pandemic, residents requiring assistance can book an appointment. They can also drop payments through a secure drop box.

Sooke

Council rolled back a projected tax increase to zero (down from an approved 4.01 per cent). The 0 per cent applies to residential properties whose B.C. Assessment value this year increased by the Sooke average of 3.4 per cent. Taxes are due July 2, after which a 10 per cent penalty will be applied. Taxpayers can pay in person at municipal hall or use the drop box.

Sidney

Council voted 6-1 to cut this year’s tax increase to zero from 1.79 per cent for residential and commercial properties. Council also agreed to an additional 10 per cent cut to the municipal portion of taxes for commercial and light industrial properties. The 5 per cent penalty for late payment of residential taxes moves to Aug. 1 from July 3. The 5 per cent penalty for commercial properties shifts to Oct. 1 from July 3. The town hall is open for payments.

North Saanich

Council voted 4-3 to cut its overall tax increase to 1.44 per cent from 2.88 per cent. That works out to a 1.65 per cent increase for residential properties and 0.95 per cent for businesses. The owner of an average residential property will pay an extra $21 this year, down from $42. Owners of residential and farm properties will face a three per cent penalty for late payment as of Aug. 1, instead of July 3. They’ll get hit with another seven per cent penalty on unpaid balances Oct. 1.

Central Saanich

Council approved a property tax increase of 2.85 per cent, a reduction from a proposed increase of 3.86 per cent. Residential, utility and farm property owners have until July 31 to pay without a penalty; a 3 per cent penalty will be applied after that and an additional 7 per cent penalty after Sept. 30. Business, industrial and recreational property owners have until Sept. 30, after which there is a 10 per cent penalty. Online payments are encouraged, but the municipal hall is open.

Esquimalt

The penalty deadline has been extended to Sept. 30, although early payment is encouraged and residents are urged to pay online or drop payments into the secure drop box at city hall.

View Royal

Council reduced its property tax increase from 2.9 per cent to 1.5 per cent and extended the deadline an extra 90 days to Oct. 1. Town hall access is limited and officials want to limit the number of people for safety concerns. There is also a payment drop box.

dkloster@timescolonist.com

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