Can’t keep hiking taxes, says rookie Ridge councillor

Corisa Bell wants to put an end to automatic annual tax hikes in Maple Ridge

Coun. Corisa Bell had wanted finance department staff to prepare three possible budget scenarios for council based on different property tax increases

At some point, the poor old taxpayer will reach the breaking point and won’t be able to pay to keep the District of Maple Ridge operating.

Coun. Corisa Bell, though, wants to keep away far from that fiscal cliff.

She wants to keep looking hard at district finances and put an end to the automatic, annual four-per-cent property tax hikes that have been regular features of the financial plan.

“I don’t think we should be planning for annual tax increases. We should be trying to reduce taxes,” she said Thursday.

“We should be seeing what we can do lower taxes even further, not planning to increase them. If we’re planning for that, we’re not necessarily reviewing what can be done differently.”

Bell had wanted finance department staff to prepare three possible budget scenarios for council based on different property tax increases, one of which would been a zero per cent increase.

That didn’t happen this year, but next year she’ll present a motion to council to see if she can get a majority of her colleagues to agree and make that request to staff.

“I hope it’s supported and it hasn’t been done in this community before. Maybe it’s a little extra work, but I think it’s time to do this. I think that it’s a completely practical request.”

Bell said she plans to make finances the focus of her remaining two years on council. She wants to review spending in all departments, including costs of salaries and benefits for staff, fire and police.

“We’re not going to be able to afford them eventually, and then what?”

Bell also favoured delaying further the completion of the fire department’s master plan, which basically has its rollout completed to a hybrid career-part-time model next year.

She says the public may support the cost cutting and possible service cuts.

“That’s what I’m hearing. “We don’t need all the extra things. We can’t afford to pay our taxes.’

“That’s what I hear on a consistent basis. I hear people not being able to afford their homes because they can’t pay their taxes. They’re not unhappy because they need another park, necessarily.”

A release issued by the district Thursday said the reduction from an earlier proposed 5.6-per-cent increase in taxes to a 3.9-per-cent increase in taxes and utilities as a “significant achievement.” That works out to about a $43 savings.

Many cities Lower Mainland cities separate their tax increases from utility increases to make the numbers seem smaller, said Mayor Ernie Daykin.

“Council has had a policy of reporting the ‘all in’ number. We think that it’s very important to be up front and transparent about the cost of running our local government.”

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