Adding an Environmental Sustainability Coordinator to the Langley City budget will increase taxes slightly more than expected.
At their Monday, Jan. 25 meeting, a majority voted to increase the proposed budget by $127,500 to fund the position, which would see the average property tax increase rise from 3.94 per cent to 4.35 per cent.
Initially, Councillor Paul Albrecht, who made the proposal, suggested the money could come from fiscal reserves.
“I was just trying to ease the burden on taxes and get creative,” Albrecht said.
That didn’t get much traction from other council members.
Coun. Nathan Pachal argued a one-time dip into reserves would only postpone the fiscal pain until the next budget.
“I think we have to bite the bullet on it,” Pachal said, adding “I’m willing to take that political hit.”
Teri James also had issues with using reserves, saying “I’m not a fan of half-funded positions.”
Coun. Rosemary Wallace reminded her fellow members of council that a motion declaring a climate emergency passed a year ago, and that other Lower Mainland communities already have people in similar positions.
“We are way behind the times,” Wallace said.
Mayor Val van den Broek agreed, saying “we have done nothing. We don’t have anybody on staff to address these issues.”
Councillors Rudy Storteboom and Gayle Martin voted against the move to increase the budget for the position, with Storteboom calling it a “noble”proposal, but one he could not support this year.
“I think it is important that we keep our tax increase to a minimum” Storteboom said.
Martin was also concerned about the tax impact.
“I will not support this whether it comes from reserves of some place else,” Martin said.
Single family homes will bear the brunt of the increase because under B.C. law, municipalities can only have one tax rate for all residential class properties, and the assessed value of single family homes increased 38 per cent while multi-family homes increased half as much at 19 per cent.
It will mean an average single family home assessment will rise about $349, while an average multiple unit residential assessment will be reduced by $4.
Rising police expenses, the result of a first-time union contract for RCMP officers, were a major cost increase.
City director of corporate services Darrin Leite reported the negotiated settlement was higher than expected, raising the police budget by five per cent, including $1.3 million more for local detachment officers plus $187,000 more for regional policing units like the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team.
Council also added a $200,000 storm sewer project Monday, but that will be funded with money from the cost-sharing agreement with the Cascades Casino.
With the reopening of Cascades Casino, Leite expects the City share of casino revenue will amount to $7 million.
A public input and open house virtual meeting will be held on Thursday, Feb. 3, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. for the public to learn more about the budget and ask questions.
The virtual open house will be followed by a financial plan presentation at a Monday, Feb. 7 council meeting where comments from the public will be invited.
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