A tax increase for 2013 divided Pitt Meadows council on Monday as one camp called for further slashing while the other stuck to a proposed spike of three per cent.
In a 4-3 vote, council approved a general fund increase of 1.79 per cent, with an additional one per cent being directed to a strategic capital reserve for future projects such as a Lougheed-Harris overpass and indoor pool.
It means a single family home will see an $83, or 3.10 per cent increase to fund all municipal services in 2013.
The city sees the increase – the lowest in four years – as striking a balance between offering tax relief now while saving and investing for the future.
“Our goal was to ensure we do as much as we possibly could with minimal financial burden on our residents. I’m proud that council and staff did their due diligence and demonstrated fiscal restraint,” said Mayor Deb Walters, who cast the deciding vote for the three per cent increase, also supported by Couns. Doug Bing, Tracy Miyashita and Gwen O’Connell.
“This is definitely a tax rate increase that we can defend.”
Two of the largest projects that influenced council’s decision concerned the development of a “start-stop model” of policing in Pitt Meadows and funding for much-needed repairs to the city’s drainage system.
The city noted that Pitt Meadows’ tax rate “compares favourably” to neighbouring municipalities that are considering increases in the range of three to six per cent. Maple Ridge approved a 3.9 municipal tax increase for 2013.
Pitt council was also split on whether to shift the tax burden to businesses.
“We want to make it easy for businesses to succeed in Pitt Meadows, by keeping the ratio of business-to-residential tax rates the same, we are showing that commitment,” said Walters.
But dissenting councillors believed the city could have kept the increase lower.
Coun. Dave Murray wanted to reduce the amount being put into a capital reserve from one per cent to .75 per cent.
“It would have meant another .25 per cent off the tax increase,” said Murray.
“We can’t forget that we are here to provide checks and balances for the voters, who are our bosses. I understand we need to put money away for capital reserves, but we are in tough economic times and not many people are getting a 3.1 [pay] increase.”
Coun. Bruce Bell wanted to shift some of the tax burden to businesses, pointing to the economic development corporation, which is funded by the city. The corporation will cost around $343,000 next year.
“We could have tweaked the business rate a bit,” said Bell, explaining it would meant an increase of a couple dollars.
“I certainly appreciate the efforts that went into business planning. I know pencils were sharpened, but for me we could have gone a little bit further.”
Coun. Janis Elkerton was the third councillor who did not support the 3.10 per cent increase.
Council earlier rejected a petition started by two Pitt Meadows residents calling for a “zero” tax increase in 2013.