Pitt Meadows council slashed a proposed tax increase by 20 per cent Thursday after spending four hours slicing and dicing the budget for 2012.
The proposed 4.75 per cent increase in general taxes was reduced to 3.93 per cent, which means the average homeowner, with a property valued at $381,400 will see a spike of around $91 on their tax bills next year, instead of $131.
Council used part of the surplus generated last year to offset the spike, choosing to put around $100,000 less into the city’s reserve fund.
Three quarters of a percent from the overall increase will go towards savings for possible capital projects including a potential overpass on Lougheed Highway at Harris Road and an indoor swimming pool.
While door-knocking during November’s election campaign, Mayor Deb Walters and her councillors were repeatedly told a tax increase next year wasn’t welcome.
“Our goal was to ensure we do as much as we possibly could with minimal financial burden on our residents,” said Walters.
“I’m proud that council and staff did their due diligence and demonstrated fiscal restraint. This is definitely a tax rate increase that we can defend.”
Council also did not consider any new significant capital building projects in 2012 but focused on funding basic infrastructure such as roads and drainage.
One of the largest drivers of this year’s decision was figuring out how to deal with the required collection of organics – food scraps and green waste – mandated by Metro Vancouver.
Council heard that Pitt Meadows residents support a move to the curbside collection and were able to find a way to implement the service for less than $26 per household per year.
The transition will be softened by using the money from the city’s tax rate stabilization fund for the first two years.
“This is a service our citizens expect and it fits well with what we want to do long term to reduce our carbon footprint and remain a green community,” said Walters
“We know that there are going to be more issues requiring our fiscal attention like increased traffic and demand for services but we must strike a balance, largely through a diversified tax base, between meeting those needs and planning and protecting the interests of the community well into the future.”
The farm market will continue to receive money from the city next through a fee for service agreement but it will be $5,000 or about $1,000 less than the $6,000 requested.