Budget talks cut Langley Township tax rate hike

The proposed tax increase is now under four per cent for the Township.

Langley Township’s property tax increase was reduced on Monday afternoon as council voted for amendments that cut the rate from 4.95 per cent to 3.92 per cent.

That’s a significant decline from the 7.47 per cent proposed in early February.

The council spent part of the month cutting spending, and chopped a further one per cent off Monday, largely through an amendment put forward by Councillor Eric Woodward.

Woodward spent about three weeks crafting the amendment, speaking with Township director of finance Karen Sinclair and administrator Mark Bakken, among others.

The motion slashed some spending items, but added back others, including lighting for the Walnut Grove skateboard park, better accessibility for disabled residents at recreation facilities, and a study on the 216th Street corridor north of Highway One.

A considerable amount of time was spent debating upgrades to McLeod Athletic Park planned for the next two years.

Those changes are key because of the upcoming Canadian Track and Field Championships. The Langley Mustangs will be the hosts for the events in 2021 and 2022.

To upgrade the athletic park for the event, which will draw about 1,000 athletes for the four-day event, two years running, the Township had planned to build a new parking lot with better wheelchair access, and a plaza with gates to the stadium area.

Better access for pedestrians would help prevent people from spilling onto the nearby road while waiting to enter the grounds, said Al Neufeld, deputy director of public spaces and community initiatives.

And a new parking lot and wheelchair parking will help when welcoming disabled athletes.

The big competition is one of the top track and field events in the country for prospective Olympic and Paralympic athletes, Neufeld said.

Coun. Petrina Arnason suggested moving some of that spending – about $1.9 million – off to 2020 rather than this year.

That wouldn’t stop the project from being completed by 2021 and the first annual event.

But it would tighten the timeline. Several councillors expressed a fear that one year of bad summer weather could prevent the work from being finished before the track competition.

“I really want to see this happen,” said Coun. Margaret Kunst.

“The sooner we get it done, the better,” said Coun. Bob Long.

Council voted to go ahead and start work this year.

Even after slashing one per cent from spending, there was still just under $800,000 left in the budget.

Council voted to spend $510,000 on expanded commuter bike lanes, because that money will be matched by another half million dollars from Metro Vancouver.

Council also approved some sidewalk upgrades for Fort Langley and Aldergrove.

The remainder of the money will go towards funding a proposal by Coun. Kim Richter for a financial sustainability study.

She suggested getting a report on the Township’s long term financial situation.

The budget will now go forward as a bylaw for more debate and a vote, starting at the next regular council meeting on Monday, March 11.

“I really feel this is a ‘council budget,’” said Mayor Jack Froese.

He said council had a great deal of input and worked with staff on the priorities for this year’s annual budget.

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