Maple Ridge budget talks venture into cyber space

Maple Ridge fields questions about 2013 budget via Twitter, Facebook and email

Laura Benson delivers a question received via social media to District of Maple Ridge staff during Monday’s budget discussions.

Discussion about Maple Ridge’s budget didn’t go viral, it wasn’t trending on Twitter, but the experiment that took the dusty dry topic of municipal finance into the realm of social media worked Monday night.

Maple Ridge council opened its budget talks to the new media for an hour starting at 6 p.m. by livestreaming its meeting over its website.

The idea was to get people involved via their smartphones, computers or iPads.

It wasn’t long before the questions flew in via e-mail, Twitter and Facebook.

“Based on what I’m hearing, our new growth costs more than it brings in so we are budgeting in tax increases forever … ” came one tweet.

The point that seemed to be made was that residential developments cost more to service than the property taxes they bring in.

The answer, in a 140-character tweet from staff, was that businesses will move to Maple Ridge when the population is big enough. But to attract businesses, the population base has to grow.

Someone else wanted to know if better and more narrow roads would make Maple Ridge more people friendly than car friendly.

“We need to balance road design for commuters and residents,” staff tweeted in a reply. “For example, in seniors area the road [224th Street] was once assigned as an arterial route.”

The street has since been narrowed, the answer continues in a follow-up tweet. Improvements are also underway to 122nd Avenue and Kanaka Way, while traffic-calming is planned for 132nd Avenue.

But only one question came in asking directly about taxes and it seemed to question council’s halving of the one-per-cent increase levied for upkeep of roads, sewers and sidewalks. Isn’t that full amount needed to keep things in good repair?

It was the first time Maple Ridge livestreamed its budget meeting, said Laura Benson, sustainabilty manager.

When it came to Facebook, the event only drew one response however from Once Upon a Tea Leaf from someone who watched the meeting on their iPhone. “So cool!” came the comment.

Council also took questions from the audience in council chambers, which numbered about half a dozen people.

Former council candidate Graham Mowatt wanted to know how much it cost the district to belong to Metro Vancouver and what services the district gets in return.

Council rolled out its budget that calls for a 3.9-per-cent hike next year in taxes and utilities, about another $100 more for an average home. It gave three readings to that 2013 financial plan at its Tuesday meeting.

Somebody else wanted to know why Maple Ridge had no municipal garbage pickup.

But public works manager Frank Quinn pointed out that two recent reports said it would result in a 10 to 15-per-cent rise in property taxes.

Two-thirds of Maple Ridge residents already have residential garbage pickup through private contractors while the other third take their trash to the waste transfer station in Albion industrial area.

And if Mission can keep property tax increases at zero, why can’t Maple Ridge?, while another wanted to know why the property tax increase exceeded the inflation rate.

Finance general manager Paul Gill though pointed out that the costs that cities face are different than those of a household.

“I don’t know of many households that buy fire trucks or police cars.”

Taxpayers also gave their feedback via News articles that appeared earlier online. One reader said that Maple Ridge’s “gold-plated” fire department’s $10-million budget next year is a “prime example of out-of-control vision.”

Just Posted

Pitt Meadows blueberry farm ordered to pay $131,000 to foreign workers

Golden Eagle Blueberry Farms also penalized $500

Ridge search team finds lost children

Brother, sister were stranded overnight on Burke Mountain

LETTERS: ‘New route to 240th St. not so apparent’

Thornhill is ‘old urban reserve’

Maple Ridge downtown association hands out favourite business awards

Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News wins in trades and services category.

Killer of Calgary mother, daughter gets no parole for 50 years

A jury found Edward Downey guilty last year in the deaths of Sara Baillie, 34, and five-year-old Taliyah Marsman

Cost jumps 35% for Trans-Canada Highway widening in B.C.

Revelstoke-area stretch first awarded under new union deal

Is vegan food a human right? Ontario firefighter battling B.C. blaze argues it is

Adam Knauff says he had to go hungry some days because there was no vegan food

Winds helping in battle against fire threatening northern Alberta town

Nearly 5,000 people have cleared out of High Level and nearby First Nation

Man pleads guilty in Surrey crash that killed two Abbotsford women

Sarah Dhillon and Paige Nagata died following head-on collision on Nov. 4, 2018

B.C. sends 267 firefighters to help battle Alberta wildfires

Out of control fires have forced evacuations in the province

LETTER: Fletcher ‘blurs reality’ on B.C. union public construction

Bridge, highway projects awarded to companies, not unions

Federal government funds millions to help B.C. police spot drugged driving

Many police departments have expressed wariness about using the only government-approved roadside test

Judge: Mississippi 6-week abortion ban ‘smacks of defiance’

The new law would prohibit most abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected

Most Read