Budget plans call for near-zero tax increase

City of Abbotsford staff present 2013 objective to council.

Bruce Banman

The municipal tax increase for 2013 should be as close to zero as possible.

That’s according to a staff report, presented to Abbotsford council on Monday afternoon.

In the presentation, the 2013 budget objective is listed as a “near zero” increase as part of a goal to implement a “financial sustainability strategy” for the city.

Staff is asking council for direction on the 2013 budget in hopes it can be completed and adopted by Dec. 17, 2012.

The new budget will have to take many factors into account. They include police and fire services, collective bargaining for union staff wages, a proposed review of all city services as well as a slower rate of growth than originally expected, the current economic uncertainty and the under-performing Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre and Heat hockey team.

In 2012, the city raised municipal taxes by 1.66 per cent. In 2011 the hike was 4.3 per cent and 4.5 per cent in 2010.

“We cannot continue to go down the road of having budgets that are greater than growth or inflation,” said Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman.

“The great news is staff agree.”

Banman said staff are working hard to take the burden off the backs of taxpayers. He also noted that new sources of tax income, including the huge shopping mall being constructed at Mt. Lehman, will add to city coffers.

“That’s the largest mall that’s been built in the last 30 years between Vancouver and Calgary. That comes with a bit of a bump in the bottom line of the city.”

According to the report, a representative house in Abbotsford paid about $4,012 in municipal tax in 2012. That’s higher than Surrey, Langley, Maple Ridge, Kamloops, Kelowna or Chilliwack, but less than North Vancouver, Richmond, Burnaby, Coquitlam or Delta. Those cities were chosen as examples because they have a population base between 75,000 and 500,000.

Public meetings on the budget are scheduled for Nov. 6 and 7. Times and locations are to be determined.

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