Abbotsford city manager believes no tax hike possible for 2014

A report from city staff last week indicated that the lofty goal of a zero per cent tax increase is achievable.

Abbotsford city manager George Murray.

Abbotsford city manager George Murray.

Abbotsford will not raise taxes in 2014, and will be able to “do more with less,” said city manager George Murray.

A report from city staff was approved by council on Monday, and city manager George Murray said the “lofty” goal of a zero per cent tax increase is achievable.

“We are sending a message to staff that has now been confirmed by council, that we are looking for a net zero tax increase for the 2014 budget.”

In the 2013 budget, the total tax increase was 2.06 per cent. The 2013 increase in utility rates was five per cent for sewer and two per cent for storm drainage. Water and solid waste did not increase.

In the proposal for 2014, only sewer rates will increase by five per cent, in order to fund projected capital requirements.

The report from staff states that the 2014 financial plan will be developed to reflect the cost of providing core service levels equivalent to 2013, and increases will be provided only for contractual obligations such as salaries and benefits, utilities and insurance.

“Any inherent cost drivers, things like increases in costs of utilities, staffing, gas for vehicles, rent, what we have, will have to be reduced in other areas of the budget in order to make sure that we have a zero or negative tax increase in the next year.”

Murray said each department will look at their budget, analyze expenditures and try to find more efficient and effective ways to do business without impacting services.

Murray said it will be a difficult task, as there is an increase in the downloading of services from other levels of government and increased public expectation.

“I think that the ratepayers are getting fatigued of having to pay more and more for local government services. We hear it constantly from our community. I think that this organization has the staff who can make this happen … and maintain services.”