Where your tax dollars will go in 2014.(Insets) John Becker

Where your tax dollars will go in 2014.(Insets) John Becker

ELECTION 2014: Becker promises no tax increase for 2015

Mayoral hopeful wants to improve budgeting transparency in Pitt Meadows, plans to hold a townhall meeting in February

A candidate for Pitt Meadows mayor has pledged to deliver no tax increase in 2015 should he be elected.

A former councillor, John Becker has scoured city budgets for 10 years and sat through many intense budget planning sessions.

“I’ve looked in detail at the 2014 budget and I feel quite confident that we can have a zero increase in city spending for 2015,” he said.

Becker has already booked Heritage Hall for a “Budget 101” town hall meeting, during which residents will be able to quiz council and staff about spending and share ideas.

Becker assures the town hall will take place on Feb. 19, should he win or lose.

“If I don’t get in, I will turn the format and my ideas over to whoever does get in,” said Becker.

He won’t ask to be reimbursed for the hall rental fee as long as his rivals honour the principles of empowering taxpayers with information.

“People may not want to vote for the messenger, but they do seem to like the message,” Becker added.

Seemingly endless tax increases have been an issue for Pitt Meadows residents for the several years.

The late Tom Murray spearheaded two petitions in the past two years, each calling for no residential tax increases.

More than a 1,000 people signed the petition each time, prompting city hall to prepare two budget scenarios for 2014 – one with no tax increase and a second with an increase of 1.9 per cent.

Becker ran on a platform of “zero-based budgeting” in 2011 and has discussed the city’s current financial landscape with three incumbent councillors – Janis Elkerton, Bruce Bell and David Murray, who have all endorsed him for mayor.

The incumbents believe a zero tax increase can be achieved for 2015 and tried to deliver one this year, but were out-voted by their colleagues.

Mike Stark, a Pitt Meadows resident who has attended budget planning sessions for the past six years and is seeking a seat on council, also believes a zero per cent property tax increase is possible.

During budget sessions last year, staff cautioned council against a zero increase in spending, warning there would be service cuts.

Becker disagrees.

“I’ve watched this with some frustration. It requires leadership,” he said.

“It is my belief that we can do this certainly without staff and service cuts.”

If Pitt Meadows does hold the line on spending, it won’t be the first city in B.C. to do so. In 2014, the District of Mission delivered a zero per cent tax increase for the second time in three years.

This year, neighbouring Port Coquitlam gave its residents a tax decrease of .21 per cent.

With his proposed budget town hall meeting, Becker hopes to change the way Pitt Meadows consults its residents about the budget.

He suggest the current process, where a four-inch thick binder or online pdf document is prepared and then debated by council and staff over five days, is not open or transparent.

“It’s a great cure for insomnia,” Becker said of the process.

“To think of that as properly informing and empowering the citizens is ridiculous.”

Becker’s opponents, Michael Hayes and Gary Paller, did not return calls for comment.

Tracy Miyashita, who will be seeking a third term on council, welcomes the more open budgeting process but cautions others against making promises they may not be able to keep.

“Aiming for a zero is always a worthy goal,” said Miyashita, first elected in 2008.

“But I think what’s missing is context. It’s not wise for candidates to say right now, ‘Yes, we are going to do that at all costs.’ It’s saying it without having all the information.”

Miyashita notes the city can keep its portion of the property tax increase at zero, but has no control over other costs imposed by Metro Vancouver or the joint parks and leisure service.

“I think it’s so unfair when those services go up and in order to compensate and try to reach a zero our city departments have to compromises and do the tightening.”

She believes residents need to know what a zero will look like – what services or projects would be affected?

“To be honest, sometimes we debate over things that have a two dollar impact to the taxpayer per year,” said Miyashita, adding she is uncomfortable with the city not saving money in its reserves to replace infrastructure and equipment.

“To save somebody $2 now, but have a much higher increase later, that’s not fair to people,” she said.

“I’d rather have low increase right now but they are consistent.”

Update:

Mayoral candidate Michael Hayes commented after deadline because he was attending back to back meetings.

Hayes noted taxes are an ongoing issue not just to Pitt Meadows but all municipalities.

“It is especially true for municipalities that do not have a large industrial tax base or reap the rewards from a gaming facility,” he added.

“It is so important to look at delivering the best services and quality of life to our citizens with the least amount of impact on tax dollars. I note that the cost for municipalities to deliver services continues to escalate.  We’re not only hearing from residents, but our local chamber is additionally calling on municipalities to lower business taxation. The key is to find a balance that is fair, while protecting our important reserves for future infrastructure repairs and replacement.”

Hayes promises to take a hard look at Pitt Meadows’ budget, and making the necessary cuts where need be.

It means looking closely at the “nice to haves” as opposed to the “must haves”, reducing spending wherever possible and delivering the best services to our community for least cost to our tax payers, he added.

 

Budget 101 Townhall

John Becker town hall will take place at 7 p.m. on Feb. 19 at Pitt Meadows Heritage Hall on Harris Road.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Downtown businesses along 224 Street. (Colleen Flanagan/The News)
E-commerce pilot program to help businesses in Maple Ridge

New program will help businesses build their online presence

Isabella Muzzolini said she is ‘honoured and excited’ to become a Georgia Bulldog. (Special to The News)
Soccer sensation signs southern scholarship

Maple Ridge’s Isabella Muzzolini will play for the Georgia Bulldogs next year

Maple Ridge artist Zoran Malinovski has a new online exhibition called What’s Happening. (Angie Malinovski/Special to The News)
Exhibition by Maple Ridge artist brings environment back to the forefront

Zoran Malinovski’s online exhibition called What’s Happening

Maureen Blamey is a seniors outreach social worker with the geriatrics team. (Colleen Flanagan/The News)
New geriatrics team to help seniors in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows

The Seniors Service Team was formed to improve the quality of life for pre-frail and frail, medically complex seniors

Baillie House long-term care is located at Ridge Meadows Hospital. (Google Maps)
Five people test positive for COVID-19 at Maple Ridge’s Baillie House

Long-term care facility is one month removed from its last outbreak

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Another 694 diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C. Thursday

Three more health care outbreaks, 12 deaths

Melissa David, of Parachutes for Pets and her dogs Hudson and Charlie are trying to raise money for a homeless shelter that will allow pets and are seen in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘My only wish:’ Children asking pet charity to help their furry friends at Christmas

Parachutes for Pets says it has received 14 letters from children in the last week t

Melissa Velden and her chef-husband Chris Velden, stand in their dining room at the Flying Apron Inn and Cookery in Summerville, N.S. on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. The couple is hosting holiday parties with appropriate distancing and other COVID-19 health protocols in place at their restaurant. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Celebrities, Santa and Zoom part of office holiday parties being held amid COVID-19

Many will send tokens of appreciation to workers or offer time off or cash

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Cops converge in a Marshall Road parking lot on Thursday afternoon following a reported police incident. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
Federal offender escapes, gets shot at and is taken back into custody in Abbotsford

Several branches of law enforcement find escapee a short distance from where he fled

A demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24, demanding more action on the Cohen Commission recommendations to protect wild Fraser River sockeye. (Quinn Bender photo)
First Nations renew call to revoke salmon farm licences

Leadership council implores use of precautionary principle in Discovery Islands

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

(Pixabay)
Canadians’ mental health has deteriorated with the second wave, study finds

Increased substance use one of the ways people are coping

Most Read