Pitt Meadows residents urge council to keep taxes down

4.75 per cent overall increase being proposed for 2012

Where your money goes.

Where your money goes.

Pitt Meadows council was told to keep next year’s tax increase to a minimum on Tuesday as staff and councillors get set to finalize the city’s budget for 2012.

Three residents took the opportunity to comment on Pitt Meadows’ financial plan, urging council to keep in mind people on fixed incomes and to turf unnecessary projects.

“Keep it as low as possible,” Peter Jongbloed told council, which has been listening to presentations, detailing spending and expenses from each city department for the past week.

“Having lived here 47 years, I want to continue living here.”

Preliminary estimates predict a general tax rate increase of more than four per cent, which means homeowners could see a spike of around $131 on their tax bills next year.

The municipal property tax increase proposed for 2012 is 3.75 per cent for the average homeowner, with a property valued at $381,400.

Combined with increases in drainage, garbage, sewer and water charges, the total increase being proposed is 4.75 per cent.

The capital works program for 2012 has a proposed budget of $9.2 million, including: $2.14 million for improvements to the McKechnie drainage area, flood box and culvert replaces; $1.39 million for water main replacements on Blakely and Ford roads, as well as a meter program; $4.8 million for the development of McMyn Park, a caretaker’s house at the athletic park, replacing the Thompson Road bridge, repaving Kennedy Road and renovating the Harris Park sports fields.

Another Pitt Meadows resident who attended the meeting wondered if he could expect a four per cent tax increase annually until 2025.

“Restraint on wages, that’s your biggest cost,” said Bill Wild, referring to the city’s general government spending that’s expected to total $3.2 million next year.

Police services still remain the biggest expense for the city and will account for $4.3 million of the $19.4 million budget for 2012.

Mike Stark, another resident who unsuccessfully ran for council this past fall, asked why the $420,000 surplus from 2011 was being placed into a reserve fund instead of using it to offset the tax increase.

Council spent Thursday scouring each line of the budget to figure out where costs can be cut to finalize the 2012 budget. If needed, council will meet again on Saturday before the final budget is presented at Tuesday’s meeting.

“We have to roll up our sleeves and show restraint,” said Mayor Deb Walters.

Council believes the proposed tax rate increase of 4.75 per cent is too high. Walters said council will be looking at whether part of last year’s surplus can be used to counter the projected tax increase and whether several large projects can be put on hold for a year.

While door-knocking during November’s election campaign, Walters and her councillors were repeatedly told a tax increase next year wasn’t welcome.

“But the same people also said, ‘so when do we get our swimming pool?’” she added.

“Council is fully prepared to work hard on this.”

• For detailed presentations by the city, click here.