White Rock council has approved final readings of bylaws setting the city’s financial plan – and a 5.24 per cent hike in property tax rates.
The votes came at a special meeting of council Thursday (May 12), along with final votes on bylaws setting collection, removal, disposal and recycling of solid waste and drainage utility user fees.
Coun. Erika Johanson cast the sole negative vote on adoption of the financial plan, while she and Coun. Scott Kristjanson opposed adoption of the property tax bylaw.
The first three sets of readings for each of the bylaws had been passed at the regular council meeting on May 9.
A report to council at that time from acting finance director Shannon Johnston recapped the process and reasoning behind the increases, which when combined with new utility fee rates, result in an overall rate hike of 4.37 per cent – or a total of $247 more from the average household.
The plan provides for the continuation of services expected by the community and a focus on maintaining service levels during this unprecedented time of COVID-19,” Johnston said.
“This requires striking a balance between the need to continue increasing capital funding, maintaining service levels, and keeping operating costs in check,” she added.
“Sound fiscal choices must be made that reflect community priorities and the ability to pay during COVID-19 and an uncertain economic climate.”
Johnston said funding is still provided for key projects and initiatives to move strategic priorities of Council forward.
These include such wants as solid-waste pickup for commercial and multi-family properties, addressing housing needs and affordable housing, continuing ‘shovel in the ground’ projects funded by community amenity contributions and continued work on the City’s relationship with the Semiahmoo First Nation.
She noted that municipal operations have been limited to a 1.14 per cent increase, or $43 more to the average homeowner.
She said taxes have been affected, however, by significant increases in police service operational costs under the new RCMP collective agreement, while the city has a five-year plan to invest $71.6 million in asset improvements with funding from reserves.
This includes previously approved capital work in progress and projects that are subject to grant funding requests to senior levels of government and significant spending on roads, facilities, drainage, sewer and water systems, Johnston added.
“Overall debt levels will not change significantly over the five-year term of this plan,” she said. “No new debt is forecast, and regular debt principal and interest payments will continue.”
Under the Municipal Act, the city had until May 15 to finalize the financial plan and property tax rates.