Township Council gets testy over taxes

Debate arises over whether to offer taxpayers floating ideas or concrete options

Are Township property owners prepared to pay into a rainy day fund for the upkeep of roads, or should the Township fight a little harder for a bigger slice of federal tax dollars for that purpose?

Are ratepayers willing to pay for a study on a fine arts theatre, even though the City of Langley has floated the idea and the Rotary Club of Langley is raising money for one?

Are Township taxpayers content to devote more tax dollar to health care, which is a provincial responsibility, even if those dollars go to a seniors’ facility in the City?

And are residents of the Township, the horse capital of B.C., willing to shell out for an agricultural/equestrian facility?

These issues were pivotal in a lengthy, and sometimes testy, discussion at the council table on Monday afternoon, when council members argued about floating ideas versus offering taxpayers concrete options.

Floating ideas to a public open house next week gives the impression that council is seriously considering them, said Councillor Bob Long. He said that council needs to separate what it intends to do from issues that are simply ideas.

Long and Councillor Kim Richter sought to remove from the budget a 0.5 per cent increase in taxes to generate money for a road paving reserve, the cost of a study on a fine arts theatre, and an equestrian facility.

Their motion failed, as did Richter’s attempt to remove a grant for the Langley Care Society for Langley Lodge, a Langley City facility for the aged and infirm.

Long said later that what council intends to do, and what it floats as an idea, should be treated differently.

A problem, he and Richter noted, is the scant interest the public shows in the budget. On average, only 15 to 30 people attend the public open houses. Long said he would like staff to come up with ideas that encourage public participation.

Township taxpayers will face a property tax increase of 3.2 per cent, including 0.5 per cent for each of the following, if approved by council:

• Infrastructure reserve fund for paving, but not new construction;

• to boost police and fire services;

• a capital works reserve fund.

The budget will increase residential property taxes by 3.2 per cent, unless a majority of council votes to trim its must-do list.

Among other items that will be presented for the public’s consideration are:

• $5 million to replace the bridge over the Nicomekl River on 56 Avenue, near Christian Life Assembly;

• $330,000 to hire four firefighters in 2012, and four next year, as the Township continues to man firehalls around the clock;

• $33,000 for the Langley Care Society’s Langley Lodge;

• $80,000 for a small park and public art installation at the site of the original Milner Church, and

• $500,000 over two years for a South Langley regional riding trail.

The open houses will be held on Monday, Feb. 27 from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., and on Tuesday, Feb. 28 from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Both open houses will be held on the fourth floor of the Township Hall, in the foyer outside the council chambers.