Abbotsford City Hall. (File photo)

Abbotsford residents looking at 2% tax increase

City scales back 2020 spending plans and projects in wake of COVID-19

Abbotsford residents are looking at one of the smallest tax increase in recent years, as city hall pushes back or defers previously planned projects.

The city’s financial staff told council last week that next year’s budget draft budget includes a 2.05 per cent tax revenue increase. Of that, about one-quarter will be slated specifically to replace existing infrastructure over the coming years.

Mayor Henry Braun said the decision was made in light of the challenges being faced by businesses and residents.

“We have pared down where we can,” he said.

The 2.05 per cent increase will amount to an average of about $75 more in taxes for the owner of a typical Abbotsford home. But the precise amount of one’s tax bill largely depends on whether a property’s assessment increases in value more or less than the citywide average. The 2.05 per cent increase relates to the total amount of additional tax revenue the city will collect from property owners.

The city entered last year with a significant cushion, with recent budgets socking tens of millions of dollars into reserves to be used to replace and improve infrastructure across Abbotsford.

In April, the city scaled back this year’s tax hike in light of the emerging pandemic. And it made a similar move this year by dialing back on the amount it plans to spend on new projects in 2020.

Some of those decisions were made to limit tax pressures. Other plans, Braun said, were deferred to ease the pressure on staff.

“I don’t want to burn our staff out either,” he said. “In light of COVID, we’ve taken too much stuff on.”

The new infrastructure levy formalizes an ongoing theme from Braun since he took office six years ago. The levy amounts to a 0.5 per cent tax increase this year and will raise an extra $7000,000. Braun said council had discussed such a levy in the past, and warned it may not stay at its current level.

“When the economy is ticking, you can probably see that infrastructure increase to 1 per cent, maybe 1.5 per cent.”

The city’s focus on long-term planning in recent years has laid out more than $1 billion worth of infrastructure spending that will be needed over the coming decades. Much of that is on top of the need to keep up $1.4 billion worth of existing roads, sewers, water pipes and other critical infrastructure.

“We have to put money away to replace that stuff when it begins to wear down,” Braun said.

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