A week after he said he would explain why he opposes the five-year financial plan and the coming year’s budget, Langley Township Mayor Rick Green resisted being drawn into an explanation, despite persistent grilling by council members.
On April 11, Green said that he opposed the budget bylaws because of the “process.” He said it was a staff budget, not council’s, and added that he would expand upon his reason when the bylaws came up for first three readings on April 18.
On Monday, Councillor Steve Ferguson told Green that it is staff’s job to assemble the budget.
“That is what they do,” Ferguson said.
“I’m lost, I’m confused when you make a statement like that,” he told Green.
Green said he wasn’t going to get involved in a discussion, and told Ferguson he didn’t think he would accept his argument.
“Tell me a better process,” Ferguson persisted.
Pressed, Green said that staff, who began the budget process with council in December, recommended that it go to the public in January, with a list of items that faced the chopping block.
Green argued that before that happened, there was room for more discussion at council and staff’s budget sessions.
Councillor Jordan Bateman said that there were five or six sessions covering many hours during which council members made suggestions, and he said Green did not contribute.
“You were very much a passenger. You didn’t come up with many ideas,” Bateman told the mayor.
Councillor Bob Long asked the mayor where he would have trimmed the budget: in the police, fire or recreation services.
Green replied that he made it clear he would not support a budget increase of the magnitude proposed by staff.
At this point, Councillor Charlie Fox thanked staff who, he said, “agonized for hours” before coming up with the budget.
“They came up with solutions because we challenged them to come up with solutions,” Fox said.
He stressed the importance of maintaining the Township’s infrastructure. Quoting the warning of former operations manager Rene Payer, Fox said: “Do not lose sight of the value of the infrastructure that you do not see, because you will never get it back.”
Council gave first three readings to the bylaw, which raises property taxes by 3.95 per cent.
What this means is that for a property assessed at $480,000, the budget will tack an extra $20 in general taxes, $12 in parks levy, $18 in transportation levy and $5 in storm water levy, over last year’s levels.
User fee increases, applicable only to those residences which have these municipal services, will see the cost of water, sewer and garbage collection rise by $95.
As with all levels of government, wages and benefits are the big cost driver in this year’s budget. They are up by $2.5 million. More police protection boosts the budget by $1.4 million, and converting another firehall to a 24-hour operation adds another $705,000 to the fire protection budget.
Final reading of the financial bylaws takes place on May 9.