Taxes in Langley Township will rise by 2.95 per cent in 2012, council decided unanimously on Monday.
The jump in taxes will pay for increased operating costs in a number of areas, along with the hiring of eight new firefighters, one RCMP officer and renovations to firehall 6 in Murrayville to make it compatible for full-time firefighters.
Council will not proceed with a planned 0.5 per cent tax increase for transportation and roads maintenance, and a 0.5 percent increase for a capital infrastructure renewal fund. The latter will be discussed when the 2013 budget is being prepared.
Council still has to formally pass the 2012 budget. Monday’s vote was to receive a report on the budget and input from the public, and to decide on specific items within the budget. A five-year financial plan and appropriate bylaws will come forward at the April 16 meeting.
Councillor Kim Richter said she wants to see the components of the tax increase explained to taxpayers when they get their property tax notices. Administrator Mark Bakken said that can be done in material that accompanies the tax notice.
A 0.7 per cent tax increase will go towards hiring the eight new firefighters, with another .45 per cent to finish the firehall 6 renovations. The additional police officer will cost .05 per cent extra.
“I support the eight new firefighters, in the name of public safety,” Richter said. “I want people to know how much we are putting into public safety.”
Councillor Bob Long said it was good to add the eight new firefighters in the 2012 budget, because “if you do it in smaller bits, it comes up each year.”
“It’s most efficient to introduce eight firefighters now, instead of over several years,” said Councillor Bev Dornan.
Councillor Steve Ferguson noted that spending more money on public safety means less money somewhere else. He said he would have liked to see the transportation and roads and capital replacement funds proceed, but “we have to work within our means.”
Councillor Grant Ward said the fact that the transportation and roads maintenance funding isn’t going in the budget means “the potholes we see now likely won’t be repaired as they ought to be.”
Councillor Charlie Fox said the public input into budget issues jumped dramatically in 2012, with 96 people attending two open houses, as compared to 28 last year.
A staff report noted that “the substantial increase in attendees can be mostly attributable to the attendance of Township of Langley firefighters.”
The International Association of Fire Fighters, local 4550, which represents Township firefighters, has been vocal about the need to hire more firefighters, to ensure there are always four-man crews responding to fire calls.
Another 100 people filled out a public input response form.
Councillor Michelle Sparrow did not speak on the budget, but voted in favour.
While her husband is a Township firefighter, Bakken said Tuesday that Sparrow is not in a conflict of interest in participating in the vote. Bakken said her husband is already a Township employee.
Bakken said Sparrow has obtained an independent legal opinion advising her which council discussions she must excuse herself from.
The Township’s financial plan calls for 2.95 per cent tax increases in each of the next four years, through to 2016.