Those 9% property tax increases Oliver residents have endured in three of the past four years likely won’t be enough to get the town’s finances in shape to take on policing costs as expected on April 1, 2022.
For years, town officials have been bracing for Oliver’s population to exceed 5,000, at which point the municipality will have to cover 70% of its own RCMP costs. At present, residents pay just 30% through the school tax and the B.C. government covers the balance.
The 2016 census put Oliver’s population at 4,928, so the 2021 census – data from which is due to be released early next year – is expected to put the town firmly into the 5,000-plus category.
Doug Leahy, the town’s chief financial officer, told council this week he expects the RCMP contract to cost approximately $1.1 million annually to maintain the status quo of six municipal officers, along with support staff, care of prisoners and operation the detachment building.
However, the three years of 9% tax increases have only generated approximately $426,000 in new revenue. Another $336,000 will come from a redirection of the portion of school taxes that currently goes to policing. That totals $756,000, leaving the town about $344,000 short.
“You definitely have to raise your taxes more substantially than 9% in 2022,” said Leahy, who suggested something in the range of 14-15%.
Leahy also warned the town could find itself stuck with extraordinary bills if there’s a serious incident requiring the involvement of outside police agencies, such as the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team. Such was the case for the City of Kelowna following the fatal shooting of gangster Jonathan Bacon there in 2011.
“Once you involve IHIT, there’s tremendous costs,” said Leahy. “I know at that point in time, the City of Kelowna bore 100% of those costs. They can be very extensive costs when you’re getting into forensic evidence and investigations.”
Leahy reminded council that up until 2007, towns with populations under 5,000 paid nothing for policing.