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Council eyes 1.9% tax increase

New Westminster is proposing a property tax increase of under two per cent for 2013.

In a report to council Monday, city finance director Gary Holowatiuk said the proposed budget would not require an increase, except council has asked that money be set aside for future civic projects such as renovating or replacing the Canada Games Pool and the Massey Theatre. In addition, there will be initial staff costs for the new Anvil Centre in 2013.

For the first time, the city’s operating budget is targeted to hit nine figures this year, at $100.7 million compared to $98.3 million the year before. That’s what will be required to provide ongoing municipal services including police, fire, parks, recreation, culture, engineering and libraries. Of the $2.4 million difference between 2012 and 2013, $1.3 million will go to an increase in amortization, and the remaining $1.1 million is for increases in salaries, benefits, training, contracted services, supplies, materials, and debt servicing costs which includes the expanded Queensborough Community Centre.

Property taxes will pull in $61.5 million of the total budget, with the rest of the money coming from sale of services, contributions and revenue from utility funds.

Holowatiuk is expecting $1.5 million as a result of new construction, or increased value in homes because of renovations.

He said staff costs make up 66 per cent of the budget.

The city is proposing salaries and benefits be funded at 97 per cent of the actual budget, by not filling vacancies and using hiring restrictions to achieve that target.

Staff costs will go up by $671,000 this year, which because of conservative budgeting in 2012 is less than usual since in most years the rise is in the $1.1- to $1.5-million range.

He said the 2012 actual expenses are projected to be under budget primarily because of staff vacancies and recent contract settlements. Actual revenues will be slightly over budget because grant funding for police was higher than projected.

Increases in police contracts are expected to cost $223,000 more in 2013 than last year. Supplies expenses will budgeted to go up $150,000 to pay for annual maintenance costs for software programs and vendor increases.

The capital budget of $71 million includes money for the Fourth Street pedestrian overpass connection to Westminster Pier Park and remediation work on the Front Street parkade.

City council began debate on the proposed budget Monday. It must be approved by May 15.

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