Pitt Meadows tax increase comes in under three per cent

Big ticket is $120,000 for engineer

Pitt Meadows council is moving ahead with a budget that will increase taxes and utilities by just under three per cent.

The increase in the property tax rate will be 3.37 per cent, and combines with utilities including sewer and water to come in at 2.96 per cent.

For a single family home the cost will be an additional $89 per year, and $3,097 in total, based on a $674,000 average assessment for 2017.

For an attached unit the cost will be an additional $51 per year, and $1,806 total, based on an average 2017 assessed value of $351,000.

One of the big costs to the city will be hiring of a new project engineer for an 18-month contract at a cost of $120,000 per year, which will be funded from reserves. The engineering department has a high workload that includes asset condition assessments, dike master planning, sewer infrastructure replacement and a new fire hall.

Coun. Bill Dingwall said he supports the position because staff are already working at full capacity, but objected to the funding coming out of reserves, rather than increasing taxes further.

“I see this as an ongoing need for the city,” he said. “I don’t like seeing anything come out of reserves that I think is going to be an operating ongoing expense.

“I know it’s an election year, and I don’t like to see a tax increase, but we head a zero (increase) in the first year.”

He was outvoted by the rest of council, who chose to take the $120,000 out of reserves, and then re-assess the need for a position.

Staff noted that by having a new person on staff, city hall will save on consultants fees.

Coun. Janis Elkerton said city hall will get a chance to evaluate the person for an 18-month trial period before making a permanent hire, and she said the decision to take the funds out of reserves was not being made to keep the tax rate down before the 2018 election.

“This is a staff-produced budget, not political,” she said.

Council also improved new spending for staff to develop a long-term strategic plan at a one-time cost of $40,000 funded from operating reserves.

There will be a one-time $42,000 spend for equipment replacement in the Meadows Room.

“I continue to get complaints about the streaming of our council videos,” said Elkerton, adding there are disruptions in the feed that need to be resolved.

There will also be a $35,000 invasive species management plan, and a city community governance review $6,000.

New spending from operating costs, which will impact the tax rate, include Sunday library openings during the summer at a cost of $6,700 from operating costs.

Council could reduce the building replacement reserve from one per cent to 0.5 per cent to save $96,000 this year, but chose not too.

The budget includes official community plan work will cost $95,000 including $65,000 in 2018 and $10,000 in the three subsequent years.

Community engagement will cost $100,000 for 2018 and $50,000 the following year.

The 2019-2022 proposed financial plan estimates tax increases of 2.99 per cent in 2019, 2.80 per cent in 2020, 2.73 per cent in 2021 and 2.65 per cent in 2022.

The financial plan and utility fee bylaws are scheduled to be adopted on March 20, and the tax rate bylaw on May 8.

Residents who have questions about the budget can fire them at Mayor John Becker this Saturday at 8 a.m. at Waves Coffee (106-20199 Harris Rd.) and other other ‘chat with the mayor’ dates.

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