White Rock council have all-but-approved a 3.38 per cent property tax increase for 2013.

White Rock council have all-but-approved a 3.38 per cent property tax increase for 2013.

White Rock rethinks lower tax bump

Tax increase, if approved, will mean more attention to parks and the creation of an arts, culture and recreation manager for White Rock.

Barring anything unforeseen, White Rock taxpayers will see their property taxes go up by 3.38 per cent next year.

The boost is higher than two figures – 2.8 and three per cent – that have been recommended by staff in recent weeks, but necessary, officials say.

“I wanted to keep it right down,” Mayor Wayne Baldwin said Wednesday. “Two-point-eight I was really happy with, but on the other hand, when you have more demands, you have to pay attention to them.”

Council Monday unanimously supported giving the 2013-’17 financial plan bylaw first, second and third reading. A final vote is expected on Jan. 14.

If it goes through, the increase means the average single-family homeowner will see their property taxes jump by $93 (from the $77 that 2.8 per cent would have brought); the increase to strata properties will be $36 (up from $30).

Additional increases to drainage and sanitary sewer user fees were also supported, as were increases to cover Fraser Valley Regional Library and Epcor hydrant levies.

A report by the city’s director of financial services identifies highlights as continuation of all of the city’s current services, and enhancements to off-season events, parks maintenance and arts, culture and recreation.

White Rock Library will soon be open Sundays year-round, and the waterfront will be improved, Sandra Kurylo adds.

Funding for an additional $1.07 million for upgrades to the pier and road works on Victoria Avenue and Marine Drive was found without impacting property taxes, Baldwin said.

He noted the increased emphasis on parks maintenance is overdue. Funding was never allocated to compensate for the halt “a number of years ago” in the use of pesticides in the city, he said, and the decision has taken a toll.

“It was time to correct it, so that’s what we did,” he said. “Maintaining what we’ve got… we haven’t been doing a great job of that, quite frankly.”

While the new figures were moved forward without discussion Monday night, Coun. Al Campbell – who had been vocal in recent weeks regarding his opposition to the lower numbers – told Peace Arch News that he, too, had no problem with supporting the proposed changes.

Campbell has previously argued the 3.94 per cent that was initially projected should be adhered to, because he was concerned about not meeting the city’s needs.

“I don’t have any problem at all going to the people of White Rock and saying we need 3.9,” he said during a Dec. 10 meeting.

Wednesday, he said he is “quite satisfied.”

“I’m happy with it now, I wasn’t happy with it before,” he said. “We were actually looking for 3.9, so you’ve got to be satisfied with that.”