Pitt Meadows, BC – Pitt Meadows City Council ended budget deliberations this week with a 2.73% increase planned for 2016. While the utilities portion of the tax bill, which includes water, sewer, garbage and recycling, remained the same with no increase, property taxes came out with an increase of $62.16 (3.52%) for the average family home assessed at $468,000. The 2016 taxation rate follows a zero increase in 2015.
Mayor John Becker said, "Council had some priorities that needed to be addressed in this budget and balance that with the impact on services. The Parks and Recreation transition needs are definitely on that list, as well as critical services like fire and diking."
Council scrutinized department budgets and reviewed 39 budgetary decision package items, in the end approving only six of them.
Mayor Becker added, "Although the proposed packages may have value, we need to focus on the needs, not the wants. For example, with nearly 85% of the community within the floodplain, diking is a ‘need,’ not a ‘nice to have.’"
Council’s unanimous approval of a modest diking cost increase of $18 per land parcel will go towards preparation for when the provincial and federal governments come forward and support diking as a critical emergency measure for municipalities all along major watercourses in the province.
Planning for a new firehall was also recommended as part of the recently released fire service review.
A 0.5% of the increase will assist in the transition to an independent parks and recreation model, which will assume some up-front costs over the year leading to the Oct 31, 2016 deadline when Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows will officially part ways for parks & recreation services. Council has committed that any of those dollars not used in the budget would be returned to taxpayers in the 2017 budget.
Council also choose to suspend their Revenue & Taxation policy in favour of a slight shift of 1.07% to the growing business class. Currently, 28% of revenues come from business and 61% from residential. Council stressed that costs in the municipality are a bargain at $0.37 per day for fire and $1.20 per day for water use. Further review of the policy will ensure that the City will remain competitive and keep businesses and jobs in Pitt Meadows.
Mayor Becker said, "This budget process is structured to strike a balance between responding to requests for service, minimizing tax increases and providing for sustainable long-term investment in our infrastructure. We can’t avoid holding taxes artificially low one year, as this just compounds the inflationary pressures we will feel in future years. We need to think not only about this year but future years as well."
Residents interested in the business plans and budget background can find the information on the City's website and in hard copy at City Hall and the library. Council is also hosting a Taxation Town Hall Meeting on February 4, 2016 at City Hall at 7:00 pm to answer questions residents might have about taxation and the budget process.
A summary of the 2016 municipal rate changes is illustrated below: