District of Summerland supports community through 2020 budget amendments
In response to financial challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, at the Special Meeting on April 17, 2020, municipal Council at the District of Summerland directed staff to support the community through the following measures: Property Tax Notice remittance extension Property tax notice remittance due dates were extended from July 3rd to September 4th with penalties for late payment being postponed until October 1, 2020. This will provide relief for those in the community that need additional time for property tax payments. The District is also looking at the potential to extend this, given the changing Provincial legislation.
No Change to 2020 Property tax increase
Council directed staff to commence preparation of the 2020 Property Tax Bylaw for presentation to Council with a 4% property tax increase. Council considered an adjustment; however, it was determined that keeping the tax rate the same would have a more beneficial impact on the community long-term.
General Operating Fund Reductions
Council supported a reduction of approximately $1.5M in operational expenses for 2020 to offset revenue reductions expected over the remainder of the year. Operating fund reductions were made up of operating line item and project adjustments and savings resulting from recent organizational changes. These savings will sustain the District financially for the remainder of 2020 and assist in building strategic and impactful budgets as our community recovers in 2021 and beyond. Utility Billing Discount Extension Council supported extending the 10% utility billing discount until December 31, 2020. This will provide relief for customers not able to make utility payments on time. This initiative will provide the average Summerland home approximately $217 of savings by ensuring every utility customer within the District receives the 10% discount even if payment was not received by the due date.
Electrical Utility rate investigations Council directed staff to continue working on the potential for electrical rate reductions, working with FortisBC and the BC Municipal Electrical Utilities.
Agriculture and Domestic water rate reduction
Council supported a 25% rate reduction to be applied to commercial, municipal and residential water rates for July and August 2020, and a 25% reduction in agricultural and domestic second service rates— not including tiered rates—for 2020. These savings are expected to provide some relief for Summerland’s commercial, domestic and agricultural water customers during peak months for water use in the community.
“Many of the proposed initiatives provide Summerland residents the ability to defer payments, while at the same time deferring or eliminating penalties,” stated District of Summerland Mayor Toni Boot. “Although the District has gone to great lengths in reducing its general operating budget by $1.5 million dollars, there still exists the requirement to maintain a certain level of essential and community services.”
Residents that have the financial ability to meet the July 3 property tax deadline date as well as monthly utility due dates are strongly encouraged to continue making these payments on time. This will ensure the stability of the District’s cash flows which allow for the provision of essential services that are vital to all residents of Summerland. Non-essential services will be reduced in the short-term and District staff will provide further information over the coming weeks regarding these impacts.
Mayor Boot stated, “Council is committed to supporting the needs of the community during this public health emergency. The budget changes approved by Council support investments from the provincial and federal governments. Our hope is that they provide some relief for those in need, while ensuring the District can maintain an acceptable level of service for our residents and businesses.”