Langley Township council has begun debating next year's municipal budget. (Langley Advance Times files)

New taxes, levies, or cuts considered in next Langley Township budget

COVID-19 has put a strain on some areas of the budget

Langley Township council began its look at its 2021 budget recently, with the impact of COVID-19 a major consideration.

The preliminary numbers unveiled to the Township council on Nov. 30 show a need for almost 10 per cent of new revenue, taxes, or budget cuts could impact next year’s finances.

Township administrator Mark Bakken said there is a 9.94 per cent target to meet for the budget.

“That is a number that we have to raise, or reduce our expenses by,” Bakken said.

The Nov. 30 gathering of Township council saw discussion of property taxes, levies, provincial grants, and the financial impact of closed rec centres.

Bakken noted that the numbers are not firm yet.

“Many of the elements are moving targets,” he said.

But so far, the 9.94 per cent is based on expected increased costs, slower growth, and reduced recreation centre and pool revenue.

The Township is expected to see a $6 to $8 million reduction in parks and rec fees in 2021, based on projections of when widespread vaccination may bring an end to extra safety precautions around the pandemic.

Most municipalities are seeing their parks and rec revenues drop to about 25 to 33 per cent of normal this year, Bakken said.

Growth in population is expected to be about 1.53 per cent next year, down from the standard two per cent the Township budgets for, Bakken said.

There is some good news financially, as the Township has received a one-time “restart” grant administered by the province, totalling $7.6 million.

READ MORE: COVID money comes to Langley City and Township

Councillor Kim Richter asked about an annual contribution the Township makes to its capital funding – cash that goes towards building and maintaining roads and municipal buildings.

“Do we need to put the $8.8 [million] in, and what are other muncipalities doing in the Lower Mainland?” Richter asked. “Are they going ahead with their usual capital contribution, or are they pulling back on that because of the need to get operations up and running?”

Bakken said that is something the council could consider, but noted that there are more demands than ever on the Township for infrastructure.

“We’re seeing continued increased demand on some of our areas such as facilities and roads,” Bakken said.

Richter also asked about property tax revenue. There had been a serious concern in the spring of 2020 that a significant portion of local residents might default on their taxes, but that did not happen.

“We were I think extremely fortunate in 2020 to collect the very high proportion of property taxes that we collected,” Richter said. “Is that high proportion going to continue into 2021, or are we going to see more people in distressed situations that won’t be able to pay?”

Bakken said the residential property tax base looked solid, but there might be some reduction on the commercial, industrial, and institutional side of the tax ledger. It was too early yet to say for certain, he said.

Council will continue to consider the budget at its next special meeting on Monday, Dec. 14.

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