Abbotsford residents set for tax increase near 3%

New police hires, inflation drive city spending hike

Abbotsford homeowners are looking at an average property-tax hike just below three per cent next year.

That, combined with small proposed increases to water and sewer fees, would cost the owner of a typical $751,000 home just under $80. But residents are less likely to face an above-average tax hike because of wildly fluctuating assessments.

The city’s preliminary budget was unveiled last week, with staff suggesting a 2.97 total budget increase. That would be in line with the last five years, during which time tax requisitions have ranged between two and three per cent.

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Although the non-police share of revenues will rise by 2.5 per cent and remains pegged to inflation, increased spending on police is expected to push up the total tax ask.

The Abbotsford Police Department hopes to hire two new police officers, along with an investigative assistant and court liaison officer. That would increase the department’s budget by 3.7 per cent.

At city hall, most of the new tax revenue will be spent on ongoing programs and projects. The city has maintained its policy of calculating a “municipal price index” to measure inflationary pressures and setting its revenue increase accordingly.

“We’re buying asphalt and concrete and steel and the tariffs that are occurring south of the border are not helping us,” Mayor Henry Braun told The News. “In a perfect world, I’d like to have no increase, but if you have no increase and inflation is running at two-and-a-half per cent, that’s actually a tax decrease; it just doesn’t look like one.”

About 30 per cent of the new tax money will go to new initiatives and staff. That includes digitizing city records, and a plan for unspecified “land development special projects.” The city will also hire new staff in the planning and building inspection departments.

The city also expects to put tens of millions of dollars more into reserves for future capital projects.

Abbotsford now has about $200 million in reserves. The city has some $1.9 billion in long-term projects, although that includes many major projects – including more than $400 million worth of dike upgrades – that would likely be financed partly or wholly by other levels of government.

A three per cent city tax hike doesn’t necessarily mean that individual homeowners will see their own bills rise by precisely that amount. Since property taxes are based on a home’s assessed value, only those properties with values that rise (or fall) exactly in line with the city average will see that average tax increase. Residents whose property values drop in value, compared to the city average, will see a smaller increase – or even a decrease. Meanwhile, if your home’s value increases faster than the city average, you’ll end up paying more in tax.

The exact increase is likely to be revised over the coming months. Last year, increased development and changes to assessment decreased the tax hike from 2.98 to 2.88 per cent.

Over the last four years, the valuations of homes, townhomes and stratas all skyrocketed at different times. That meant that many property owners saw dramatic changes in their tax bill when their homes increased far above the city average. That left owners of single-family houses feeling the pain as home prices took off, while some apartment and townhome owners saw their bills actually shrink. As strata units caught up in price, the pattern reversed itself.

Now, though, with the situation calmer, fewer people are likely to get a nasty surprise come tax time.

BC Assessment deputy assessor Bryan Murao said both single family houses and strata units are looking at a three per cent average decrease in value this coming year. While individual properties may see different jumps, the double-digit disparities between property classes that caused tax angst doesn’t seem likely to rear its head this year.

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