Maple Ridge city council is moving forward with a city budget with a 5.65-per-cent tax increase for 2023.
Council gave first, second, and third readings to its 2023 property tax rates bylaw and the 2023-2027 financial plan bylaw at its April 25 meeting. All that remains is to vote for final adoption at a future meeting, which is generally a formality after bylaws pass three readings.
Coun. Korleen Carreras noted staff’s rough budget numbers, accommodating all requests, would have resulted in a jump of close to 20 per cent in property tax rates.
“You knew that we would lose our minds if that came to the table, so I do appreciate you coming with something that was a little more palatable,” said Carreras.
“I do recognize that people are struggling with inflation, but the city is also struggling with inflation, and I appreciate that we have found a balance, where we have an increase that is considerably lower than a lot of communities around us, but also is a budget that really invests in people in the community.”
Second-term councillor Ahmed Yousef noted it is just the second budget he can support, and called it a “very efficient” budget.
“It’s one that will enable the corporation, the City of Maple Ridge, to get the things done that are desperately needed, be it our infrastructure deficit, parks and recreation facilities – where we are lacking, and we’ve heard the complaints from our residents over the years,” said Yousef.
“Having voted against three out of the four budgets in my first term, I am confident that this is a good budget moving forward, and will be supporting it,” he added.
Longtime councillor Judy Dueck said she sympathized with families facing increased costs.
“We’ve talked around the table that we really want to be progressive, and really move our community forward, well it takes resources to do that,” she said.
Dueck said it was important to get more resources for the RCMP. Two new constables are included in the budget.
“Safety is still one of the number one issues that our residents talk to us about,” she said.
Some of the expenditures will pay for new positions in digital marketing, municipal training, accounting, human resources, a gardener and seasonal labourers in the downtown core, and two bylaws officers.
It will also advance the site assessment and preliminary design for an ice sheet, and fund a feasibility study for a new aquatics facility.
There is also $51 million in capital improvements for 2023, which will include planning improvements to Abernethy Way and a crossing of the Alouette River at 240th Street. There will also be planning for the new Port Haney waterfront improvements, park and path improvements and more.
Dueck added she will not want to see “This kind of an increase every time.”
Coun. Sunny Schiller said the budget fits into an overall strategic plan that is supported by council.
“I am truly very excited about a lot of the work that is planned for this year, and I believe that it will result in better services for our residents - the services that they deserve.”
Staff offered a report about public feedback on the financial plan, which took place from March 31 to April 14, using the city’s online Engage Maple Ridge platform. The public was invited to the platform via the city website, in a media release, on city social media forums, and via a Mayor’s Minute video featuring Mayor Dan Ruimy.
The platform saw 388 visitors, and of those, 55 participated in a survey. There were also six messages sent to the city budget inbox.
Based on this feedback, staff said commentary was sympathetic to the city facing inflationary pressures in budgeting, but noted residents have been impacted by those same pressures.
The respondents were:
• 12 per cent in support of the budget,
• 46 per cent mixed or neutral, and
• 41 per cent wanting the tax increase reduced.
The final tax rate bylaw will be adopted before May 15.
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