Township of Langley residents could pay $39 more per year in property taxes in 2012, based on the draft operational budget.
Township council members started the preliminary steps of figuring out the 2012 operating budget Wednesday afternoon, when the council priorities committee met to hear a general overview from director of finance Hilary Tsikayi.
Tsikayi told committee members that the estimated growth rate of the Township, based on new construction, is two per cent for 2012.
In order to reduce the previously stated tax increase from 3.95 per cent to 2.7 per cent, the base 2012 budget was reduced by $1.093 million, Tsikayi noted. This was accomplished by reducing or eliminating non-core services, reviewing 2011 expenditure savings and reduction of expenses accordingly and by not requesting new service enhancements, among other things.
The Township, like all B.C. municipalities, must operate a balanced budget, so projections are often conservative in order to err on the side of caution, Tsikayi said.
A 2.7 per cent property tax increase means an annual household impact of $39 per year, or $3.25 a month, on a Township property assessed at $483,000 in July 2011 (for the 2012 year), she said.
While the draft 2012 provisional operating budget summary shows total revenue and total expenditures at $129,729,405 — a balanced budget — council will still need to find more than $6.5 million to fund discretionary and non-discretionary cost drivers, such as the RCMP contract, fire services, the solid waste contract and Township salaries and benefits, said Tsikayi.
Many items in the draft operating budget are not currently funded — including not increasing fire department or Township staffing levels despite the need; not increasing asset maintenance and not increasing materials, supplies and contract costs although those costs have increased in recent years,Tsikayi told council.
She noted that a 2.7 per cent property tax increase is not that high when compared to similar B.C. municipalities, and pointed out that four of the five communities with lower property taxes have casinos to supplement their budgets.
Councillor Steve Ferguson agreed and highlighted the fact the City of Richmond collected more than $10 million from its casino last year.
“You are at a disadvantage when you don’t have a casino,” Tsikayi said.
“It takes the pressure off property taxes.”
When budget discussions start Feb. 1, council members will start talking about what will actually be funded in the 2012 Township budget and what cuts or changes will be made to the draft budget; public consultation is expected to happen in February and March.