Taxes in Langley City projected to go up by three per cent for many property owners

Proposed increase of 2.95 per cent looks to fill a gap of $670,000 between total revenues and planned expenditures.

  • Feb. 8, 2015 11:00 a.m.

City of Langley residents could see their tax bill rise or fall in 2015, depending on the type of structure they call home.

On Monday evening (Feb. 2), Darrin Leite, the City’s director of corporate services, gave council and the viewing public an overview of the municipality’s draft budget for the year, which includes a nearly three per cent property tax hike.

The proposed increase of 2.95 per cent looks to fill a gap of $670,000 between total revenues and planned expenditures, in order to balance the budget.

Including utility rate increases, an average multi-family home (assessed at $200,728) would see a decrease of 2.90 per cent or ($37) while an average single family home (assessed at $486,931), an increase of 2.30 per cent or $63.

Businesses and light industrial properties would see an increase slightly below or above 3.5 per cent, respectively.

The City spends about $233 per year on an average home, providing it with water and sewer, policing and fire service, recreation, waste collection, infrastructure, parks and other services, explained Leite.

Along with government salaries and benefits, however, policing remains the City’s largest cost drivers. This year, the City anticipates its portion of the RCMP force it shares with the Township will cost taxpayers about $10.5 million. In 2014, that figure came in at $9.85 million — roughly $732,000 under what was budgeted.

The City’s capital improvement plan for the year, meanwhile features almost $8 million in expenditures, including the purchase of a new pumper truck for the fire department at cost of $835,000 and a number of traffic signal upgrades.

On the income side, Leite anticipates that the City’s casino revenue will drop again this year, as it has since 2007. He expects the municipality, which gets 10 per cent of the Cascades Casino’s annual net profit, will receive $5.6 million in 2015.

Over the past few years, the City has realized an annual budget surplus, which has been in the range of half a million dollars.

In 2014, that surplus came in at more than $650,000, much of which was the result of unspent operating funds, including lower than expected snow removal costs, staff vacancies and more building permit revenue than anticipated.

Each year, the municipality places surplus funds into a general capital reserve.

The problem with that reserve, said Councillor Dave Hall, is that it can be accessed without accountability when a project goes over budget.

“It accommodates overruns that should be absorbed in another manner.”

Hall said the City would be better served by putting some of last year’s “record surplus” to immediate use, by applying it to current expenses and reducing the proposed 2015 tax increase.

Hall pointed to the $35,000 task force on homelessness, now being convened by the City, as one option. He also suggested that an account be established specifically for future property acquisition, so that when a piece of land the City wants to purchase becomes available the money “is ready, available and targeted and can’t be eroded.”

The surplus also gives the City the option of reducing its .75 per cent infrastructure levy which was introduced in 2013, to help replace the City’s aging water and sewer lines, he said.

“That’s my position, which they’re not necessarily buying into, is that it’s ludicrous to raise taxes almost three per cent.

“They point to the gap (between anticipated revenue and proposed expenditures) but every year the surplus is rising instead of falling,” said Hall.

Each council member was given five minutes to speak after the plan was outlined, however only Hall used the full time, saying that a 2.95 per cent rise in taxation is “unacceptable.”

Staff were directed to come to a settlement between two per cent and 2.5 per cent.

“This is nowhere close to that,” Hall said.

“We’re going in the wrong direction.”

Hall’s motion to reduce the allocation of casino proceeds to the enterprise fund from $150,000 to $100,000 died after failing to find a seconder, as did a motion to redirect unused casino funds, which had been earmarked for the 2014 Grade 5 swim program, to the 2015 program.

Hall advised council he plans to propose a number of amendments to the budget at third reading, which is scheduled to take place on Feb. 16.

“It’s been suggested by staff that this may delay the budget by two weeks. But that’s a small price to pay for democracy,” said Hall.

The 2015 financial plan passed first and second reading, with only Hall opposed.

Beginning at 7 p.m. on Feb. 16, prior to third reading, there will be a committee of the whole, at which members of the public are invited to share their thoughts on the financial plan.

Final reading is expected to take place on Monday, March 2.

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