Property taxes will cost the average Township household an extra $63 this year, with council voting for a 3.93 per cent increase on Jan. 25.
The money will be used to fund two new RCMP officers, a road paving program, a capital infrastructure renewal and replacement reserve for replacement of Township infrastructure, revitalization and construction of parks, maintenance of Township vehicles and equipment, and a litter and illegal waste management program.
The vote came after a lengthy conversation at council’s Jan. 11 meeting, when a report on public feedback for the 2016-2020 financial plan was received.
Only 13 out of the Township of Langley’s 110,000 residents attended the municipality’s two-day open house, held on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.
Another 54 people filled out an online questionnaire, which was available until Jan. 4.
Although the majority of responses were in opposition to the increase, rather than discuss the feedback from the residents, council debated on Jan. 11 whether the opinion of less than one per cent of the community is a sufficient sample.
“We’re really dealing with 60, 70 people that have actually engaged with us on it,” said Coun. Michelle Sparrow.
“So I think to make blanket assumptions on the public’s view on the budget with that low amount of people, less than 100 people actually participating, is a little troublesome.”
Coun. Blair Whitmarsh agreed, adding that those who are in support of the financial plan may not feel as compelled to come out and present their views as those who are against it.
The report states: “This input is relevant for council to consider as they deliberate the budget, however it should be noted that it is not a statistically valid sampling of all the Township residents’ views.”
There was also concern over the online budget simulator, which could potentially have responses filed multiple times by the same person, or from people who live outside the Township.
However, Coun. Kim Richter said that to discount anyone’s feedback “makes a farce of the whole budget process.”
“I agree it says there isn’t a big response,” she said. “But the question that I have is, why do we waste staff time and money on doing things like this if we’re not going to pay attention to them?
“In this case, there were only 67 people, out of 110,000, who took the time to respond. But those 67 people took the time to respond. And they were very clear I think in the feedback that they’ve given us.”
Richter made a motion for an amendment to have staff add a zero tax increase option. It was voted down, with only Richter in favour.
Mayor Jack Froese said a zero per cent tax increase “is not responsible and doesn’t do anything for our future generations.”
Not being fiscally responsible now will create a larger burden for taxpayers down the road, he said.
“A zero per cent tax increase is certainly a disservice to our community.
“Not so much a disservice to us today — it would be nice to have a zero per cent tax increase to save a couple hundred bucks this year.
“But it’s really going to impact my children, my grandchildren.”