(Contributed)                                Construction is about to start on new fields next to Thomas Haney secondary.

(Contributed) Construction is about to start on new fields next to Thomas Haney secondary.

Maple Ridge working ahead on budget

Looking at tax increase of 3.5 per cent because of employer health tax

Maple Ridge staff want to spare the newly elected council from a heavy-duty number crunching after it takes office in November and presented an early version of the 2019 financial plan at its Tuesday meeting.

Council was to vote on a budget that calls for a 3.5-per-cent overall property tax increase for 2019.

That could have been 0.7 per cent lower, in keeping with this year’s hike of only 2.98 per cent, but the new employer health tax imposed by the provincial government prevented the city from cutting further.

For Maple Ridge, the employer health tax will cost the city another $700,000. But because the city no longer has to pay employee MSP premiums, the total hit is $525,000.

The 0.7 per cent represents the property tax increase that the city will have to pass on to homeowners in order to pay the employer health tax. Based on the value of an average home, that 0.7 per cent represents a tax increase of $14.

“We’ve worked hard to keep taxes down,” said Coun. Gordy Robson.

Under the employer health tax, companies or cities with payrolls of more than $1.5 million will pay a levy of 1.95 per cent on that payroll.

The employer health tax will come into effect on Jan. 1, 2019 for business with annual payrolls over $500,000.

Overall, with an average home valued at $600,000, property taxes should rise by about $108 in 2019.

The financial plan also includes the first year of the city’s parks and recreation borrowing plan that will allow it to borrow up to $49.5 million to pay for new sports fields, parkettes, the Albion community centre, Leisure Centre pool upgrades and a new arena at Planet Ice.

That plan was approved by residents in February, but Robson said he doesn’t expect the city will have to borrow the entire $49.5 million.

This year’s funding model for the rec facilities calls for borrowing $14.5 million to get the projects underway.

However, $4 million of that is already paid for through community amenity charges paid by developers.

The city will borrow further amounts over the next six years in order to complete the projects.

One of the major projects that starts this summer are the artificial fields and field house planned for Telosky Stadium, next to Thomas Haney secondary.

That’s budgeted at $10 million with completion date by next spring.

Another, new all-weather field is already open at Merkley Park near Maple Ridge secondary while construction is underway on another all-weather field at Golden Ears elementary, across from Thomas Haney. Those projects are separately funded.