Township taxpayers likely to pay more

Township taxpayers face $40 tax hike, and $43 user fee boost

Geraldine Jordan and her daughter Elisabeth made a case for a crosswalk at 216 St. and 88B Ave. at Langley Township council in December 2012.

Township of Langley residents will have to ante up another $83 a year in combined tax and user fee increases, if council approves the proposed hikes staff are recommending.

That would bring the average homeowner’s annual bill to $2,700.

A Monday report to council by deputy director of finance Karen Sinclair calls for increases of three to six per cent for general services, garbage collection, sewer and water.

The report shows declining interest in actually attending Township open houses on the budget, with 36 people showing up at the Dec. 2 and Dec. 3 events, down from 67 for the 2013 budget and the record of 96 set for the 2012 budget.

The drop may be due in part because many people, almost 200, opted to fill out written comments using provided forms or the online budget feedback page on the Township website.

Responses to specific questions showed three-quarters of those who filled out the forms backed hiring more firefighters.

Comments on the submitted forms said the Township shouldn’t wait to hire more firefighters.

“Funding the fire department is paramount to citizen safety and should be given highest priority,” one unidentified respondent wrote.

“[Eight] suppression firefighters should be added,” another said.

In December, fire chief Stephen Gamble told council the Township doesn’t have enough firefighters to fully meet industry standards, but that it was not a safety hazard.

The chief said about 20 per cent of the time, Langley fire trucks are operating with three- instead of four-person crews, which is below industry standards but does not mean increased risk to the firefighters.

Gamble said it can mean a longer wait before firefighters can enter a burning building because a three-man crew is too small to meet a “two in, two out” safety rule that forbids them from going in alone.

About a third of those who filled out the forms supported a signalled crosswalk at 216 Street and 88B Avenue, which was proposed in December of 2012 by Walnut Grove resident Geraldine Jordan and her five-year-old daughter Elisabeth.

The mother and child came to council to make a case for a pedestrian crosswalk, saying children at three schools, École des Voyageurs, Topham Elementary and James Kennedy Elementary, use the unmarked intersection.

While Jordan presented the case on behalf of Friends of the Crosswalk (FOX), a group of Walnut Grove residents who support a marked pedestrian crosswalk for the intersection, Elisabeth sat beside her at the overhead projector in the Langley Township council chamber, helping her mother by placing maps of the intersection under the lens.

On the question of road improvements in Brookswood in the area east of 200 Street between 40 Avenue and 40A Avenue, about half supported doing the work, while a quarter of those who responded were opposed.

Brookswood Merchants Association (BMA) has been pushing for improvements since May of 2010.

The staff report on the budget breaks down the impact of the proposed tax increase at $3.32 per month or 11 cents per day and the higher user pay fees at $3.58 per month or 12 cents per day.

Overall, an online report on the Township website estimates, Township residents would be paying roughly the same amount as Surrey residents do,  slightly more than Langley City residents, slightly less than Abbotsford, about two-thirds of the Richmond, New Westminster and Burnaby rates and around half the Vancouver rate.

Council was scheduled to discuss the proposed budget Monday night, after The Times deadline.

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