Abbotsford homeowners will see their taxes rise, on average, by just under three per cent this year if council adopts the budget proposed by city staff.
More than half of that increase will go toward paying the new employer health tax (EHT) levied by the province in place of MSP premiums, council heard during budget discussions at city hall last week.
The owner of a $688,000 home with a year-over-year assessment rise in line with the 11 per cent city average will end up paying about $68 more in taxes this year. Homeowners who saw above-average property value increases will pay more, while those that saw their assessments climb at a slower rate, or drop, will see a commensurately smaller tax hike.
With staff seeking a 2.98 per cent tax revenue increase, this will be the first time in more than four years that taxes would exceed the rate of inflation, which was pegged as 2.25 per cent over the last 12 months.
However, the increase is lower than most other Lower Mainland cities, according to a staff report.
“Our staff and council worked really hard to get it [down] to 2.98,” Mayor Henry Braun said.
The tax revenue increase, along with money from the past year’s surplus and revenue from new construction and development, will allow the city to boost spending by nearly $8 million and hire eight new employees, including a new bylaw screening officer, IT person, and a pair of building inspectors.
Police accounts for 40 per cent of increase in spending, a figure slightly higher than the force’s 36 per cent share of the budget.
Most of the jump is due to the EHT, which will cost the city about $1.7 million this year – including costs related to the Abbotsford Police Department. That cost will drop by about $500,000 next year, when the city no longer has to pay MSP premiums.
Without the EHT money, city spending will actually lag behind the rate of inflation.
“We could have done a lot with that [money],” Braun said of the money spent on the new tax.
The budget presented to council includes few big ticket expenses, along with the addition of an equivalent of eight new employees.
Council will vote on the budget later in the spring.