Pitt Meadows director of financial services Mark Roberts told city council it will have to approve a 3.45 per cent tax increase for 2016 or cut services.
Of that increase, 0.55 per cent is needed to introduce the Environmental Stewardship Service.
The total proposed tax increase equates to about $61 for the average assessed single family home.
“What a difference a year makes. I’m not hearing anybody on council say we must have a zero,” Coun. Tracy Miyashita said at the meeting on Tuesday.
But, she added, council “could probably do better” than the proposed increased.
Several other councillors indicated they will be examining the proposed budget for places to cut.
Miyashita said council should wait on hiring an environmental services officer, then it would be starting with a 2.9 per cent increase.
Mayor John Becker said the environmental services position was considered urgent due to issues facing the city.
“I did pick that hill to die on,” he said, “and it remains a priority of council.”
He clarified council could still remove or reduce that commitment from the budget, if necessary.
Coun. David Murray is looking forward to potential shared services with other municipalities, which could lower costs.
“We could have significant savings in our budget next year,”
The city has recently had parks and recreation services and tourism services agreements with Maple Ridge cancelled.
Roberts told council that due to costs from service delivery partners, including the RCMP, Fraser Valley Regional Library and parks and leisure, there is little discretionary spending.
“On a go-forward basis, it will be difficult to achieve what we have achieved the last past couple of years without affecting something of significance,” Roberts said.
He said city departments have experienced multi-year budget cuts and cannot sustain further budget cuts without impacting service levels.
His presentation showed that for total residential charges of taxes and utilities, Pitt Meadows has the second rate of all communities in Metro Vancouver, at $2,854.
The lowest is Langley City at $2,824, and the highest West Vancouver at $5,358. Maple Ridge sits at $3,055, which is also 7th lowest out of the 17 communities in the region.
The budget will be adopted on March 1. The process will include five opportunities for public input between now and then.
The 2015 summer drought conditions were a windfall for Pitt Meadows, helping the city achieve a budget surplus.
The water utility got a $368,000 surplus, driven mostly by increased revenues from Pitt Meadows farmers requiring more irrigation for their crops.
Similarly, the city’s sewer utility has a $34,000 surplus, reflecting increased revenue from “industrial properties experiencing increased volumes linked to higher water consumption.”
The general fund is running at a $130,000 surplus.