Thanks to an unanticipated windfall, three major parks and recreation projects will go ahead in the next year, Rivers Day is no longer in jeopardy, and hours of operation for recreation centres will not be cut.
The windfall comes from $200,000 in unanticipated growth in the Township.
It means that should the bylaw containing the 2011-15 financial plan, which includes the budget, be approved, major projects will go ahead.
These are an artificial turf field for Aldergrove, a field house for Willoughby Community Park, and a park for the Yorkson neighbourhood of Willoughby.
These projects will be paid for out of reserves, with the proviso that those funds be repaid over five years.
At a previous budget session, Councillor Kim Richter had questioned Langley’s “huge surplus,” arguing that it suggests too much had been put away in previous years. But surplus funds, finance director Hilary Tsikayi explained, are used to finance one-time capital projects, thus reducing the need to raise taxes or borrow money.
The extra money also means that council will not have to cut services, reduce costs or increase user fees.
Axing the hugely popular Rivers Day, held every September in Williams Park, closing the demonstration garden in Murrayville, and extending the annual maintenance closure of the Blair Recreation Centre from two weeks to three, have been avoided.
The $200,000 bonanza means that the property tax increase will be kept at 3.95 per cent.
At a special budget session that preceded Monday’s regular schedule of public meetings, Mayor Rick Green and Councillor Kim Richter opposed the budget.
Neither supports an increase of that magnitude.
Green said that on April 18, when council is expected to give the first three readings to the budget bylaw and annual five-year financial plan, he will expand upon the reason for his opposition.
Green, who was elected to office in 2008 on a platform that opposed property tax increases, said: “It’s a staff budget. It’s not a council budget.”
Richter argued that if staff “can come up with these extra dollars at the last minute” to build the recreation projects and eliminate $141,000 in cuts, “then I think there is room in this budget for no tax increase.”
At a recent budget meeting, Richter said that several years of five percent and four percent increases cannot continue.
“For some people, five per cent is very high and their wages have not gone up five per cent,” she said.
The budget increase is due to the elements: wages and benefits, which add $2.3 million to the budget, the police contract for $1.4 million more, and $705,000 to convert Murrayville fire hall to a full-time facility.
These elements “should be significantly lower next year,” Tsikayi told Township recently.
She advised against fluctuating tax increases, arguing that “regular small property tax increases raise more money than large sporadic increases.”