A projected Langley Township property tax hike of 1.95 per cent in 2016 will nearly double if council approves proposed budget measures that would add two RCMP officers, a road paving program, a new replacement fund for fire department vehicles and more money for parks, along with other proposed budget increases.
The distinction between the cost of the “base” budget prepared by staff and the higher cost of the spending proposals in the “decision package” contained in the draft 2016 budget emerged during the first day of a detailed review by council.
Councillor Angie Quaale flagged the difference during the first of two special budget meetings on Monday, Nov. 9.
“That’s equal to almost another two per cent,” Quaale said of the proposed spending.
Staff confirmed the actual tax increase would be 3.84 per cent if council approved the suggested package of spending increases.
That would bump the tax increase on an average single family house from $32 to about $60.
Township CAO Mark Bakken called it a “segmented” approach to the budget.
“We’re presenting those as options to council,” Bakken said.
Councillor Kim Richer said the presentation was “misleading.”
During the second budget meeting on Monday, Nov. 16, there was frustration that the Township is funding additional RCMP that serve both Langleys when Langley City isn’t.
Last year, the Langley RCMP asked the City to fund one additional officer, but the municipality didn’t.
This year, the City is expected to take another look at the request.
Last year, the Township paid for three more RCMP officers, and is considering hiring two more this year.
There was a suggestion that the Township should make funding more officers contingent on the City doing the same.
Concern about poor optics led municipal staff to temporarily shelve a proposal that would have redirected money spent on outside contractors into hiring 14 full-time staff to handle the same work.
While the proposal would not increase spending and is intended to save money, the idea of adding more municipal employees was considered too controversial by staff, who intend to bring it back once they can make a better case for the idea.
Councillor Charlie Fox said it amounted to making budget decisions based on perception instead of reality.
A staff decision to delay funding for a bylaw officer to crack down on illicit garbage dumping was not popular with council.
Quaale argued the Township should at least fund the money for a part-time officer.
Richter said the way Township budgets are prepared needs to be re-thought, and suggested some outside “third party” should review the process.
Councillor Petrina Arnason also felt change is needed, comparing the current process, where staff prepare a budget and council then adjusts it, to baking a cake by trying to remove an egg from the mix after the ingredients are blended.
After adjustments are made based on the two special meetings, the budget will be sent out for public feedback before it comes back to council for approval.