Council Briefs: Invermere residents split on tax hike

Invermere councillors have given second and third reading to the district’s financial plan.

Invermere councillors have given second and third reading to the district’s financial plan.

The plan, which is Invermere’s budget, extends from 2016 to 2020 and outlines a 1.5 per cent general tax increase starting next year, with the extra funds generated from this being used to help pay for the new multi-use centre. That increase will come on top of a parcel tax increase in 2016 — also to help fund the multi-use centre — that will average out to around $100 per parcel.

The district, prior to the Tuesday, November 24th council meeting, carried out public consultation on the budget in the form of a public meeting and by distributing budget surveys to local households. The district received 73 of those surveys back with comments, with 20 per cent of respondents saying their most preferred option was no tax increase (and, correspondingly, no increase in services); 14 per cent choosing a one per cent increase; 29 per cent choosing a two per cent increase; 13 per cent choosing a three pre cent increase; four per cent choosing a four per cent increase; and 20 per cent choosing a five or more per cent increase.

“It was quite a split. There are a significant number of people who don’t want any increase, while an equally significant number of people are right at the other end of the spectrum, saying they are okay with a relatively large increase, but that they really want to see some improved services for that,” said Invermere mayor Gerry Taft, speaking after the meeting.

“There were also a lot of questions or comments about development at the Crossroads, and it’s clear from the comments that many people are not aware of where the district boundaries are,” he said.

The district boundary ends at the Athalmer bridge. Once past the bridge, the land north of the Athlamer road belongs to the Shuswap Indian Band, while south of the road is Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) Area F.


Accuracy of Visitor statistics

During the November 24th meeting, council members received a report outlining summer visitor trends over the third quarter of the year (July to September) from the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce.

The report showed a drop in 2015 compared with 2014 in terms of both number of visitors and number of parties stopping in at the Crossroads Visitor Centre (5,975 visitors this year compared with 7,119 last year, and 2,676 parties this year compared to 2,965 last year) as well as at the Downtown Visitor Kiosk (3,547 visitors this year compared with 5,138 last year, and 1,615 parties this year compared to 2,148 last year). The report authors did, however, point out that their own statistics seem to be at odds with almost all anecdotal evidence.

“Although the total number of parties is down by 15 per cent across all the locations we operate, we have received feedback from local businesses that summer 2015 was quite strong and that visitor numbers appeared to be up,” wrote chamber president Amanda Robinson and executive director Susan Clovechok in the report, adding that measuring the number of parties is typically a more reliable indicator of how busy the valley is, since some parties will send a representative into the visitor centre who may not share the number of people in their party.

The lack of experienced staff may have contributed to skewed visitor statistics, according to Robinson and Clovechok.

“This year’s staff were all new and competent. However, it is our experience that returning staff typically are more confident in asking the questions that elicit more detailed information which result in improved accuracy of our statistics,” they wrote in the report, later adding “we believe that statistic capturing impacted this year’s result to some degree and, as a result, we will be increasing the training and review of the data entry in 2016.”

The report also pointed out that the total number of hours the downtown kiosk was open was down in 2015 compared with 2014 (1044.5 hours this year compared with 1100 hours last year), and attributed this trend to high temperatures this summer, as the kiosk was several times more than 30 C inside, even with the air conditioner running, meaning the kiosk had to be then shut down as per WorkSafe BC regulations.