Walnut Grove Community Centre’s pool has been closed for months due to the pandemic, one funding issue the Township council is grappling with as it begins budget talks. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

Walnut Grove Community Centre’s pool has been closed for months due to the pandemic, one funding issue the Township council is grappling with as it begins budget talks. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

Good news, bad news as Township council grapples with budget

Development fees are up, but costs are higher in other areas

Langley Township council will look at deferring projects, reducing costs, borrowing money, and special levies as it examines ways to balance the books in the 2021 municipal budget.

The council held the second of its initial budget meetings on Dec. 14. After looking at the capital side of the budget on Nov. 30 – roads, buildings, parks, and other physical costs – this meeting was to look at operational costs.

User fees for municipal water and sewer are expected to increase next year, by 4.35 per cent for water and 1.48 per cent for sewer, as those fees are linked to Metro Vancouver operations.

Trash pickup fees will not increase in 2021.

The council also heard about the $7.6 million grant distributed by the provincial government, with federal funds, that was given to the Township recently. Every municipality in B.C. is getting a grant, based on population size, to help recover from the pandemic.

“So that assists greatly,” Mayor Jack Froese said after the meeting.

There was also some good news on the development front. There has been so much construction going on in the Township that development costs charges – which are paid by developers to cover infrastructure such as sidewalks, medians, street lights, and parks – are up significantly in 2021.

Construction never stopped because of the pandemic, and multiple large multi-family and single-family housing projects are still underway in Langley.

One of the major issues in 2020 was that rec centres and pools were largely closed down, but still required maintenance. Even when re-opened partly, they are bring in much less revenue from users because of physical distancing requirements.

Froese also said that the Township council will be making decisions early in the new year to control costs.

“We want to look for ways we can save some money,” he said.

Early numbers show that the potential property tax increase would be more than nine per cent in 2021 if there were no changes, but it is common for municipal budgets to start with a higher number and reduce spending or find other revenue sources until the number is brought down.

There had been fears earlier this year that the pandemic and economic disruption it caused would mean many local proper owners would default on their property taxes, but that did not happen.

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