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Langley City taxes go up in budget

While not as high as the previous year, Langley City residents face another tax increase in 2012.

The increase is necessary in order to offset a net expenditure increase of nearly $390,000.

At the City council meeting last week (Feb. 6), the City presented its 2012 budget, which received first and second reading from council.

If the budget passes as is, the average home owner will pay an additional $70 for a detached home, a 2.77 per cent tax increase, and $15 extra for an average strata dwelling (condo or townhouse), which amounts to a 1.2 per cent increase.

By comparison, business property owners are facing a 3.75 per cent increase and light industrial property faces a hike of 3.96 per cent.

Some of the cost increases are out of the City’s hands, since they are the result of higher rates from Metro Vancouver.

The budget anticipates revenues at slightly below $39 million, with property taxes anticipated at just over $21 million.

The main cost drivers in the City budget are employee wages and benefits, while policing remains the largest department in the budget, finance director Darren Leite explained.

The City’s capital projects for 2012 equal slightly more than $11 million, with the biggest expenditures consisting of engineering operations ($4.6 million), parks and recreation projects ($2.8 million) and utilities ($2.7 million) for sewer and water projects.

The largest engineering project is $2.8 million for the series of overpasses at 192 Street, 54 Avenue and 196 Street, which are part of the Roberts Bank Rail Corridor program.

As for the parks and recreation project, $2.3 million is needed to construct 77 underground parking stalls for the new Timms Community Centre.

In regards to the expenditure for utilities, $908,000 of that budgeted money is earmarked for the Maple Ridge Barnston Island pump station, which provides City residents with their water.

Leite also told council that the City anticipates receiving $5.75 million from the Cascades Casino in 2012, down by about $250,000 from the previous year.

This reflects the continuing trend, as online gaming is cutting into money being spent at casinos, Leite explained.

Council also heard that there is an expected surplus of $560,000, or in that range, from the 2011 budget.

The surplus resulted from an increase in the budgeted amount expected from building permit revenues, as well as various staff vacancies which went unfilled.

Leite said a full report to council will be presented this spring, following an audit.

During question period, Councillor Dave Hall said he would not be supporting the financial plan as it stands.

He wondered why, if there was a surplus, that money could not be used to counterbalance any proposed tax increase.

“We should as a City, try to counterbalance that by trying our very best not raise our own City rates,” he said.

“And we have every opportunity to do that by taking some of that surplus and delivering it to the operating side.”

Councillors Ted Schaffer, Gayle Martin and Teri James all commended the budget.

“Staff went above and beyond the call of duty and came up with an absolutely phenomenal budget that I am extremely proud to stand behind,” James said.

An open house for the public to discuss the financial plan was held last week.

City council will hold a committee of the whole meeting to discuss the budget at the next council meeting on Monday (Feb. 20) at 7 p.m.

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