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City council supports 6.5 per cent tax hike

New budget has 12 RCMP officers, 16 firefighters
16 new staff members for Maple Ridge Fire and Rescue are included in the city budget. (City of Maple Ridge/Special to The News)

Maple Ridge city council gave the 2024 budget that calls for a 6.5 per cent property tax increase first, second and third readings on April 9, with just one councillor opposed.

Coun. Ahmed Yousef noted there was little public support expressed out of 173 responses from the public. The call for feedback generated 75 not in support, 17 in support, and 69 who made general comments.

“Seeing those results of the engagement, I can’t in good conscience support this level of increase when people are really struggling with all kinds of expenses from groceries to fuel to interest rates,” said Yousef.

Two key elements of the budget are 16 new firefighters and 12 new RCMP officers.

Coun. Sunny Schiller said she supports the budget.

“It is not easy to make a decision that’s going to impact the financial situation of other people,” said Schiller. “The reality is, those of us in these seats have to balance being cognizant of those cost pressures, but also making sure that our residents have the services that they need.”

“To me this budget is very much an investment in our core services, which is our fire and our RCMP,” she continued. “I think there’s a lot of support throughout the community for making sure our first responders are able to be there when we call them for help.”

Told number of fire calls has increased by 50 per cent since 2012, the community has grown, but there has not front-line first responders added.

Coun. Korleen Carreras noted the 6.5 per cent is at the lower end of increases for most of Metro Vancouver municipalities, and that 4.95 per cent is needed simply to maintain the status quo.

“It kinda does strike the right balance of investing in our community, but also respecting the tax rate and trying to keep it down as low as possible,” she said.

Mayor Dan Ruimy reminded colleagues that the budget conversation started with an increase over eight per cent, before some savings were found.

“This is far from an all-bells-included budget, but it does strike the right balance,” he said, adding the city needs to keep pace with growth.

The proposed 6.5 per cent tax increase will see an average home pay an additional $150 for their municipal tax bill, bringing it to $2,453. They will also pay $79 more for utilities (water, sewer, and recycling) raising that charge to $1,452.

Those levies are based on the average home assessed at $986,000.

The financial plan includes a $160 million operating budget. There is also a $112 million capital budget. Highlights include widening Abernethy Way, upgrades at Port Haney Waterfront Park and Maple Ridge Park, planning for the 240th Street bridge as a new access to Silver Valley, and planning and designing new recreation facilities.

The budget bylaw must be adopted by May 15.

READ ALSO: Little support offered for Maple Ridge city budget

Neil Corbett

About the Author: Neil Corbett

I have been a journalist for more than 30 years, the past decade with the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News.
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