Pitt Meadows council is facing a 3.98 per cent tax increase to the city’s operating budget for 2020, but it could go higher.
During a financial planning workshop on Tuesday, several councillors said they will not be proud of having the lowest tax rates in the region if it means sacrificing quality of life.
“My goal on council, right now, is not to achieve the lowest taxes in the region,” said Coun. Tracy Miyashita. “For me, this is about quality of life. And what I dream for my community, my household … it’s not about doing the cheapest thing all the time.”
She said council should debate and approve the city’s needs during the budget process, even if it means taxes rising by 10 per cent.
There will be a decision package coming to council in December with more proposed expenditures that could increase the budget more than four per cent.
Former city councillor Ken Joyner, who served for nine years ending in 1983, said having the lowest taxes in the region should be a badge of honour for a city.
“We kept our taxes really down, and we were proud of it,” said Joyner.
The proposed 3.98 per cent tax increase would generate an additional $868,300 and result in an $81 tax increase for the average single-family home. The increase does not include utility increases. Of that $81, $39 will go to city departments, $28 for infrastructure reserves, $13 for police and $1 for the library system, explained director of financial services Cheryl Harding.
The operating budget is $31.4 million. Residential taxes make up 41 per cent of budget revenue, and business taxes are 22 per cent.
Comparisons for 2019 show Pitt Meadows at the bottom of a list of Lower Mainland cities at $4,455 for taxes and utilities, using average property values. West Vancouver has the highest taxes at $11,950, Maple Ridge is $4,786, and the average in the region is $6,048 for city services.
Mayor Bill Dingwall said he does not disagree with Miyashita’s position, and said having the “lowest taxes” label is not all positive. In the area of public safety, he said other cities with higher taxes have better coverage.
“It’s a moniker that reflects good, and not-so-good,” said Dingwall.
He cited new tax revenue sources coming in large developments including townhomes, phases three and four of the Golden Ears Business Park, the North Lougheed Study Area.
The public will have its say about the business plan at three steps during the process the next being on Dec. 9 and 11, when council gets decision packages that could bring the increase higher.