Langley Township councillors wrangled over the annual budget on Monday morning, in a priorities meeting that touched on everything from policing to libraries to cannabis sales.
The council’s budget priorities discussion, held via Zoom, was facilitated by Dr. Gordon McIntosh.
Last week, Township council heard that the overall budget had a 4.14 per cent shortfall over expected revenues, meaning that the council could either cut spending, raise fees, or increase taxes to balance the budget.
The big shortfalls caused by extra expenses and slashed revenues from closed rec centres are being partly offset this year by a $7.6 million grant in federal funding distributed through the province’s Safe Restart Agreement.
Among the longer term projects the council touched on were a proposed Arts, Sports, and Entertainment site, and the future housing development at Horne Pit, a former gravel pit on 200th Street between the 2600 and 2800 block of 200th Street.
Horne Pit was for many years a Township gravel pit, and after that it was used for storing some heavy road items. In recent years, after the Brookswood Official Community Plan passed, the land was levelled.
Now, the site is to become a housing development. A plan is expected later this year.
The Township is expecting to hear updates this spring about the Arts, Sports, and Entertainment site, with a more complete report by this July coming to council.
The meeting also touched on the North Langley Truck Route, which is to realign truck travel paths around the village of Fort Langley. It requires multiple upgrades for various intersections and nearby roads before trucks can actually begin taking their new path.
The council and staff also briefly discussed everything from widening roads in Willoughby to the SkyTrain extension project to Langley to affordable housing policies and projects.
The morning meeting was also marked by a few sharp exchanges between Coun. Kim Richter and Coun. Bob Long, with Mayor Jack Froese attempting to calm the discussion and return to topic.
“If we have councillors who are just going to go out and snipe at other councillors for the sake of sniping, that’s not productive,” Richter said after one exchange.
There was a great deal of discussion towards the end of the meeting about whether the process of creating the budget was working, and whether staff or councillors were responsible for making specific line-item decisions.
Township administrator Mark Bakken said there was one particular idea that he disagreed with, and that was that there was fat to be cut in the budget.
“There is precious little fat in the system,” Bakken said, and noted that they ran a “lean” organization compared to many other municipalities.
The morning priorities meeting was to be followed by another budget meeting.
Budgets have to be set by early March by all municipal governments in B.C.
Before that, council will hash out final spending decisions and settle on a property tax rate for the coming year.