Maple Ridge approves 3.85-per-cent hike in property taxes

Average tax bill will be about $3,350.

Mayor Mike Morden said homeless camps cost city $1.5 million a year. (Phil Melnychuk – THE NEWS)

Maple Ridge’s community social safety initiative is adding $316,000 to the 2020 budget and is boosting the municipal property tax increase from 3.6 to 3.85 per cent, or about another $5 per home.

And when combined with hikes in recycling, water and sewer fees, homeowners will pay about 4.4 per cent more, about another $140, next July, when their property taxes come due.

According to the city’s financial plan overview, the tab for taxes, recycling, water and sewer this year on an average Maple Ridge house valued at $744,000 – will be about $3,350.

Council gave third reading to its financial plan bylaw at its Dec. 10 meeting.

“There will be a lot of moving parts to this financial bylaw that will roll out, as you will come to see,” Mayor Mike Morden said at council Tuesday.

He noted that the $1.4 million in costs associated with the Anita Place Tent City homeless camp, which closed in September, haven’t been factored in.

Morden also added that the closure of the Hammond Cedar mill means the city will lose between $300,000 to $600,000 a year in property taxes.

Coun. Gordy Robson said the city also has to pay the employer health tax, which is costing up to $500,000 per year. That tax replaces the Medical Service Plan premiums formerly paid by individuals.

But he said the city has changed its focus so that some of the costs of growth are passed on to developers instead of residents.

“Unless we’d had done that, we’d literally be taxing people out of their houses,” Robson said.

In the future, he wants property tax increases to match cost-of-living increases, noting many people are struggling just to make ends meet.

“There’s going to be a breaking point here and I don’t want to participate in that.”

In a staff report, finance staff point out that the 3.85-per-cent increase is higher than the 3.6-per-cent increase forecast earlier in the year, but added that staff “will explore options” to pare down the increase to the lower number by the time tax notices are sent out next spring.

The extra .25-per cent increase, however, only pays for about $200,000 for the community safety initiative, with the balance coming from other accounts.

The new ongoing spending of $316,000 for the city’s community social safety initiative accounting will pay for the vibrant downtown initiative, ($80,000) and for a manager of community social safety ($60,000) and two additional community safety officers ($176,000).

Council this year also approved a separate, one-time lump-sum amount of $1.6 million for the community social safety initiative.

About $355,000 of that has already been spent on staff, more bylaws presence and consulting fees.

According to the city’s financial plan overview, the city is sitting on a mountain of cash, with $137 million in its savings accounts, which includes a budget surplus of $33 million from 2018.

Maple Ridge also plans on spending $34 million in 2020 for new capital projects, with $15 million of that being gobbled up by road construction, $7 million for water lines and $6 million for sewer projects and almost a million dollars being spent on technology.

The largest single expense for the city in 2020 will be $24 million, to pay for the Ridge Meadows RCMP services, while $14 million goes to the fire department.

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