Langley Advance Times is offering this weekly feature, call it “At Your Service.”
It’s another forum in which to put questions to our local politicians about key issues facing our community and its residents.
Using a basic question-and-answer format, elected officials will be asked one question at a time and given the opportunity to respond (to a maximum of 250 words) on that said issue.
Alternating between elected groups, Langley City and Langley Township councils, Langley School Board, Langley MLAs, and Langley MPs each have a chance to participate.
The answers provided will be published in their entirety online each Sunday.
Langley City councillors are being asked: Will inflation affect the City’s budget and result in higher taxes this year and in coming years?
Mayor Val van den Broek
A. The City budget is definitely affected by inflation and while we try to forecast as much as possible to lessen the burden on taxpayers, there are numerous items to be considered.
Here are just two examples:
As inflation pushes up the costs related to capital construction, such as road paving, parks improvements, or underground infrastructure repairs, tax dollars will not go as far.
Additionally, as we are in the service industry and have an amazing living wage staff, union contract negotiations can be affected during inflationary times as unions fairly negotiate to keep wages in line with the associated increased cost of living.
Langley City strives to transfer a certain amount of tax revenue each year to reserves to address these potential future costs while taking inflation into account.
By carefully reviewing every line item to identify any areas of tax savings, council and staff have worked hard to offset as many inflationary costs as possible, and we will continue to do that.
Ultimately, we are proud to have achieved an overall tax increase of 3.94 per cent in 2022.
Councillor Paul Albrecht
A. Of course, inflation affects all of us in so very many different ways, from goods and services to products, clothing, food, all our basic needs and the City will be no different.
Municipalities provide a service to our residents and inflation will have an effect on how we provide those services, as well as the associated costs.
The other issue that we need to keep top of mind is the effect of climate change. This past year alone, we witnessed the devastation of flooding, the heat dome, and wildfires. The effects on our economy will not be truly known for a few years, but we need to recognize it and be prepared.
So, the short answer is yes, taxes will increase due to inflation, as well as other community needs. But, I can assure you that City staff and council closely examine the use of our tax dollars to ensure that the best interests of our community now and in the future are considered.
Councillor Teri James
A. Increased taxes are inevitable year after year. These decisions made by elected people are necessary to continue the essential services that every municipality requires, and what the hard-working, tax-paying citizens in our community expect.
Honestly for me, determining a fair and manageable tax increase is the most difficult part of being an elected official and it’s not getting any easier.
Inflation definitely plays a part. But, this year is unprecedented because BC Assessment increased property values across the board, and at an extremely high rate. There are also other factors we haven’t experienced before that are extremely challenging, as well. Every year our dedicated City staff are faced with the responsibility of making sure that inflation and all necessary service increases are considered, while looking at the future needs of a growing community.
This is then presented to council, and we must digest all the needs and determine the necessary tax increase. When a tax increase is considered, I recognize that this impacts everyone from the seniors who have made Langley City their home and are on a fixed income to the young families considering Langley City as their potential new place to grow their family – and every citizen in between.
Tax increases are a fact, but it doesn’t make affordable living here any easier. I understand that the process of determining the City’s needs and setting the tax rate can be confusing, and often frustrating for some. But, I believe we all want the same thing – for Langley City to be the best place for everyone who lives here.
Councillor Gayle Martin
A. Inflation does have an impact on the city budget.
Staffing costs are a large part of the budget and with estimated wage increases the final impact won’t be determined until contracts are settled. RCMP costs will definitely have a large impact on the 2022 tax rates due to wage settlements.
The other area we will see an impact is capital construction.
Costs have risen, therefore it will cost more, for example, to pave a road or other capital construction projects. Thank you to our finance staff for providing this information.
Councillor Nathan Pachal
A. While inflations will impact the City’s budget, labour costs mainly drive increases in Langley City’s budget.
RCMP contract policing is historically the most significant driver of these labour cost increases.
The City has no control over these labour cost increases if we want to maintain the same number of RCMP police officers in our community. The federal government negotiates with the National Police Federation.
Councillor Rudy Storteboom
A. Inflation is on the rise and this will decrease the value of our money.
As a result, the cost of goods and services will continue to increase overtime.
When prices are not stable, organizations and individuals need to prepare budgets that include provisions for these increasing costs.
Also, there is higher-than-normal economic uncertainty because of the current pandemic. For example: Cascades Casino, a major Langley City employer was closed for more than 15 months resulting in the City’s 10-per-cent profit share to disappear.
COVID challenges at the border and recent extreme weather events in the Fraser Valley continue to impact costs associated with our overall supply chain and our food security.
In Langley City, existing service and labour contracts include cost increases. Capital cost expenses for infrastructure maintenance and repair are rising too! Then, there’s the new RCMP union contract that increases our policing costs; already averaging more than 25 per cent of the total budget. Plus, this new, national RCMP contract requires municipalities to backpay increases ’til 2017.
There is some good news for homeowners though.
In Langley, I understand that condos and townhouses increased in value an average of 19 per cent last year, while single-family homes increased twice as much – at 38%. Property owners can rest assured that their property taxes won’t go up nearly as much as their property values.
Yes, inflation will make most things more expensive. As such, honest and responsible government will adjust property taxes accordingly, even in an election year.
Councillor Rosemary Wallace
A. Inflation does have an affect on the outcome of the City’s budget.
A significant increase in RCMP costs in 2022 contributes to the significant increase in taxes this year.
Staffing costs are a large part of the budget. Union contracts expired at the end of 2021 and so the City estimated increase in wages taken, but the final impact will not be known until the union contracts are settled.
Inflation costs to capital construction will impact the outcome accomplishing less with the same amount of money. It is important to know that with service-level increases it is difficult to build up reserves for future infrastructure projects and this could have an effect of future tax increases.
This year’s inflationary costs have City council juggling in making decisions that provide the best outcomes for everyone who works, lives, and recreates in the city.
Looking at future growth, social determinants of health, environmental sustainability, diverse housing, city services, and equitable transportation all contribute to a livable City.
Next week’s Langley Township councillors are being asked: What is your vision of Aldergrove’s core a decade from now?
Watch for their answers online next Sunday.