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Richmond homeowners to get tax increase

The average homeowner can expect to pay at least $100 more in property taxes and utilities this year after city council unanimously approved the 2013 operating budget Monday.

Taxes will rise three per cent, while fees for water, sewer, garbage and recycling fees will rise as much as 7.9 per cent.

Service levels will largely remain the same, save for $400,000 in new spending. That money—relatively small in the $315.5-million budget—will boost the city's reserve account for fire department vehicles and fund a new $100,000 child care co-ordinator, responsible for planning and developing city-owned child care facilities.

"We've managed to keep the property tax increase very low," said Coun. Evelina Halsey-Brandt, who noted numerous costs, from policing to gasoline, forced the city to raise taxes.

Coun. Ken Johnston said one per cent of the tax increase will be funnelled into a reserve fund for infrastructure replacement—a "good" policy adopted 10 years ago.

He acknowledged most wages aren't rising at the same percentage as taxes, but said Richmond's five-year average increase of 3.25 per cent is lower than many Metro Vancouver cities—including Surrey's 3.55 per cent and Vancouver's 3.65 per cent—while rates for business remain competitive.

"Considering the overall pressures and considering the overall services, I think it's good value."

Critics have said council doesn't have its finger on city hall finances. But the five-term councillor said council provides oversight while letting finance professionals do their jobs. Winning financial awards, Johnston said, "is just proof positive this happens."

Richmond made a slight improvement in spending practices in the eyes of the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses. On Dec. 5 the federation released its fifth annual Municipal Spending Watch report, which tracks excessive municipal government spending.

The report ranked Richmond 102 of 153 municipalities—1 being the worst—in spending per capita. Last year the federation ranked Richmond 97. Lytton has the distinction of being No. 1 in both years

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