Maple Ridge to trim taxes one per cent next year

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Maple Ridge is stepping away from its usual financial plan and trying to make things easier for homeowners by calling for an increase in property taxes below the customary four per cent.

Relief, though, will have to wait until next year, 2013, after council told staff to sharpen their pencils.

They did and came back with only a 2.75-per-cent increase, down from the usual four per cent that’s slapped on just to run the district.

One per cent of that jump goes only to RCMP costs.

If it works out, those numbers will be put into the financial plan in December.

“We’re looking for ways we can save taxpayers money,” Mayor Ernie Daykin said last week.

Other increases could be pared back as well.

The infrastructure fund increase, (which pays for maintenance of roads and sewers) could be cut in half, to a 0.5-per-cent increase.

The fire levy increase, already down from previous years, is proposed to remain at only 0.2-per- cent.

Overall, the net increase in the district’s property taxes, after utility charges are added in, will be 4.87 per cent – compared to 5.6 per cent this year.

Under the old plan, with the usual four-per-cent increase in municipal taxes, the owner of an average home would have paid about $140 more in taxes in 2013.

But if the new guidelines hold, that increase will drop to $122, an $18 saving.

Council issued the guidelines, which staff then will write into its business plan and budget that council considers late in the year.

“We’re trying to make some inroads into looking at ways we can reduce it further,” said Coun. Mike Morden.

He’s waiting for the completion of the industrial and commercial study to show how Maple Ridge can attract more industry and broaden its tax base.

“I think it was a good healthy discussion around the table from seven points of view,” Daykin added.

Coun. Bob Masse said the decision was a matter of council being aware of how the process works, setting the targets early and, for him, trying to match tax increases more closely with Consumer Price Index increases of about two per cent.

“We’re stuck with [Metro Vancouver] utilities.

“We’re stuck with what happens with the RCMP.

“It’s just kind of setting the objectives and tone at this point. That’s what we’re working for.

“I think this was a really good step and in the right direction, that’s happened in the last few weeks.”

Preparing the financial plan has to be a collaborative process between staff and council, he added.

Masse said council wasn’t influenced by Pitt Meadows trimming of its 2012 tax increases.

Pitt Meadows’ proposed 4.75-per-cent increase in general taxes was reduced to 3.93 per cent, which means the average homeowner, with a property valued at $381,400 will see a spike of around $91 on their tax bills next year, instead of $131.

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