Langley Township council tackles budget

A number of cost increases will make it a challenging budget.

Langley Township councillors began grappling with this year’s budget, and with a number of new costs hitting in 2019.

The council has until May 13 to finalize a budget for this year, noted acting director of finance Karen Sinclair.

The increase in costs, if passed along to taxpayers, could result in a tax increase of more than seven per cent.

“I have no appetite to slap a 7.47 per cent tax increase on the public in Langley,” said Councillor Kim Richter.

Council is debating suggestions for cuts or savings to bring that down, starting Monday and continuing at another budget session Thursday.

Sinclair led the council through a presentation that included a look at many of the fixed costs that simply can’t be avoided.

The unionized Township workers are receiving a two per cent salary increase under their current contract.

The Employer Health Tax will also raise staffing costs, particularly since MSP premiums have only been cut in half, and won’t be fully eliminated until next year.

Fees for residents who pay for sewer, water, and garbage pickup are also going up.

There are increasing costs for new Metro Vancouver sewage treatment facilities, a new garbage pickup contract, and a request for $250,000 more for extra staffing for water services.

“This is required to maintain existing service levels,” Sinclair said of the last item.

For a typical house, water, sewer, and trash collection will see an increase of 9.07 per cent in 2019, up to $1,344 a year.

User fees like sewer, water, and garbage aren’t funded through property taxes, and are only charged to households that receive them. For example, homes on well water don’t pay for Metro Vancouver water services.

With water costs going up, the council batted around the idea of water metering.

“I know it’s not a politically fun thing to do,” said Mayor Jack Froese.

But Coun. Petrina Arnason noted reducing water use now could prevent the need for creating new reservoirs or major pipelines in the future.

“We are going into an era of water scarcity,” she said.

Public input sessions are expected on the budget later this month.

Langley is the fastest growing municipality per capita in Metro Vancouver, and growth expands the tax base but also brings new costs.

Asked whether growth pays for itself, Sinclair said her impression was it did not quite pay for itself.

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