Langley City council has given final approval to a financial plan that will devote more resources to the homeless problem and crime as well as widespread infrastructure improvement.
The plan will raise taxes 4.94 per cent, which will mean an average increase of $45 for single-family homes and $130 for multi-family housing.
The vote at the Monday night meeting was unanimous.
The approval came after the plan was presented for public comment at the February 5 meeting of council.
There were four speakers, all expressing concern about the effect tax increases will have on older residents and suggesting the city should take a harder look at its spending to keep taxes down.
“You need to set an example of restraint,” said Warner Smith, who warned retired seniors won’t be able to afford to live in their own homes and urged to city to “cut back on some of the extravagant spending.”
Howard Searle said the City “has a responsibility to seniors and retired residents to keep its budget within the cost of living.”
“It’s just coming to point where it;s not really affordable (to live in the City),” Searle said.
Barbara Cunningham was applauded when she said re-branding the City with a new logo that was applied to municipal vehicles was unecessary “fluff.”
“I know it wasn’t cheap,” Cunningham said.
Murray Johnson expressed frustration at the homeless problem and its impact on city spending.
“Every day I see trucks out there, at our city cost, hauling away garbage and crap (from homeless camps),” Johnson said.
Johnson suggested new bike lanes were more elaborate and pricey than they had to be.
“Maybe we should pare it back,” Johnson said.
Mayor Ted Schaffer said the city is dealing with “some real huge cost drivers that we have no control over” including policing expenses and an assessment system that doesn’t allow the municipality flexibility in setting rates.
“It”s not us,” Schaffer said.
“We would love to come down somewhat.”
The City has been campaigning for a change in provincial regulations that would allow it to assess different taxes on different types of housing in order to smooth out fluctuating tax rates, but the idea hasn’t found much traction with senior levels of government.
“We, as a council, have tried to get taxes balanced so we can take the condos and townhouse out of the residential equation so there would be no peaks and valleys,” Schaffer said.
Schaffer said staff have been told to pare back, “to cutback what ever they can cut.”
“There’s no extras,” Schaffer said.
“This is quite a lean government.
The city could have cut back on the bike lanes, but it wouldn’t save that much, Schaffer said.
The mayor added the bike lanes are part of of planning for the future, by upgrading roads, and parks and other infrastructure, and doing it without borrowing money that would have to be repaid with interest.
“We’ve poured almost 80 million dollars into infrastructure,” Schaffer said.
“We are a small community, but we’re growing and we’re still debt-free.”
The 2018 – 2022 Financial Plan includes $48.3 million in operating expenditures and a further $11.8 million in capital expenditures.
Approximately 74 per cent of that comes from property taxes and utility charges.
To address public concerns about homelessness and public safety, the City plans to hire more bylaw enforcement staff and funding for the RCMP has been increased to lower the vacancy rate at the detachment.
Improvements to parks, boulevards and trails will include floodplain pedestrian bridge upgrades, a number of park upgrades, as well as median renovations.
An additional building inspector will be added .
The City is expecting $6.8 million from its revenue sharing agreement with the Cascades Casino, up $400,000 from the previous year.
The money will pay for Duncan Way pedestrian improvements, sidewalks on 46A Avenue, the Logan Creek culvert replacement, Douglas Crescent rehabilitation between 206 Street and 208 Street, rehabilitation of 56 Avenue between 200 St and Production Way and playground equipment in City Park and Douglas Park.
The City will also allocate $168,000 of casino proceeds for community grants and a further $168,000 to the Enterprise Fund to be used at Council’s discretion for unexpected expenditures.
It’s estimated the casino deal has helped keep the City’s tax rates lower by 1.6 per cent in 2018.