Pitt Meadows city council has approved a 2021 budget with a property tax increase of 3.77 per cent, including city operations and utilities.
The cost to the average house assessment in the city will be an additional $125 next year. The increase is slightly higher for multi-family properties at 3.88 per cent, for an additional charge of $86 on average, for next year’s tax bill.
Mayor Bill Dingwall said he considers the budge a success, coming in at under a four per cent tax increase, and still contributing to the city’s reserves for infrastructure, given the additional pressures and uncertainty brought by COVID-19 and its impact on city operations.
“The 2021 budget focuses on our key strategic priorities regarding first responder and community health and safety, as well as maintaining and improving upon overall quality of life,” said Dingwall. “Staff and council have worked hard to balance responsibilities related to capital and infrastructure needs, non-discretionary increases within the city’s control like collective agreements, and costs outside our control such as Metro Vancouver water and sewer charges, with our commitment to fiscal responsibility. Pitt Meadows remains one of the lowest taxes for a single-family home in the Metro Vancouver region.”
The budget includes four new career firefighter positions to be added in 2021, which account for 0.93 per cent tax increases in each of 2021 and 2022. The fire safety technicians will be staggered hires, with two added on April 21 and two more on Oct. 2.
That will be six career firefighters added over three years by the new council.
Council’s other major spend in the 2021 budget will be $200,000 to transition to the E-Comm Radio System for fire department communications. The $200,000 will be an annual cost, noted Dingwall. For 2021, the city took $100,000 from reserves to pay for the new service, which will begin on July 1. The new system will then result in a tax increase of 0.85 per cent in 2022.
Staff advised council the city would have been required to spend $70,000 to maintain its current VHF radio system. Given that council was already looking at transitioning to E-Comm, which is the system used in neighbouring municipalities, that $70,000 spend could have been wasted money, said Dingwall.
The new E-Comm system will allow firefighters better communication with other first responders during a multi-agency emergency or disaster, council heard from staff.
The budget includes a 2021 capital plan valued at $11.8 million. Some of the significant projects include the new fire hall construction, Fenton Drainage Pump replacement, McKechnie Road (Dewdney to Connecting Road) paving, water main replacements throughout the community, and replacement of the Fire Hub Rescue Vehicle.
Funding for the capital program will come primarily from reserve funds. There is no additional external debt proposed in the budget.