Maple Ridge taxes, utilities up by 3.9 per cent

Municipal portion is 2.75; overall, $98 more for average homeowner

The levy for Maple Ridge's recycling program edges up three per cent for 2013.

Maple Ridge homeowners might be getting a break from the constant hammering of property tax increases, if the numbers work out.

Instead of seeing four-per cent hikes, homeowners may only have to pay 2.75 per cent more for general operation of the district than last year. Council starts working on its financial plan, which will set the increase, during all-day meetings next Monday and Tuesday.

“We realize people are under the gun. This will be the second year in a row where there’s no added services,” Mayor Ernie Daykin said last week.

“We’re hearing it from our residents.”

According to the overview, staff are proposing a general tax increase hike of 2.25 per cent in 2013, with another half per cent tacked on for roads and sewers.

That produces a tax hike of 2.75 per cent – although residents shouldn’t break out their champagne bottles yet. With a new drainage and parks fee added on, the increase springs back to 3.5 per cent.

Roll in increases in water, sewer and recycling rates and homeowners will pay about 3.9 per cent more this year, compared to an increase of 5.6 per cent last year.

That’s about an $98 increase over last year, on an average home valued at $410,000, according to the financial plan overview that will reach council’s desks this week.

Last May, council told staff to pare the budget back from the customary four-per-cent increases for general purposes, resulting in staff coming back with the smaller increase.

While there hasn’t been a petition pressuring the municipality to trim taxes as there is in Pitt Meadows, Daykin said Maple Ridge politicians are getting the message.

“We’re hearing it from our residents.”

But any cut in taxes means the shortfalls could have to be made up later.

“There are some things you can’t put off and somebody five years from now will have to worry about,” he said.

Coun. Corisa Bell wants to take more time if necessary to discuss the budget. “This year, if we’re not feeling on the same page, we should have more time with so we can get on the same page.”

Bell wanted the finance department to devise three tax scenarios and what the implications would be for the district with tax increases of zero, 3.25 and four per cent.

The latter was the original target for the five-year-plan before council told staff to pare that down last spring.

But Bell said she’s never been told why those scenarios can’t be created. “That’s not happening. I have no idea why not.”

She pointed out that council salaries have been frozen for its entire three-year term and wanted a discussion about salary increases.

“I think we should be setting an example for our citizens that we feel what they’re going [through] and that we’re with them.”

Council will also be hearing it from residents in a new way next Monday from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., when the meeting will be live streamed on the Internet.

A moderator will respond to questions via Twitter, Facebook and e-mail.

People can also attend in person at council chambers.

The budget has a capital works program of $17 million, but still not included in budget discussions is the $5 to $10 million needed for a new Maple Ridge Museum, $20 million for a new sports complex in Albion and $15 million for a new overpass into the Albion Industrial Area.

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