Infrastructure projects, more police officers and inflation will likely push tax bills up slightly next year.
Abbotsford city staff have recommended a tax increase of 2.13 per cent next year. Council must still approve the budget, which was presented over three days last week. If they do, it will see property taxes on a $429,000 home in Abbotsford increase by $52.
Every $100,000 of residential property higher (or lower) than $429,000 would result in about $12/year more (or less) in taxes, under the proposal.
A little more than one-third of the tax increase would go toward increasing the Abbotsford Police Department budget for the hiring of four new police officers and another employee. Chief Bob Rich said that those new hires would help the department revamp its traffic section.
After years of decline, the crime rate has been inching up since 2012 and the APD has responded by moving officers from the traffic section to other pressing areas.
“Re-staffing our traffic section is one of our top priorities,” Rich said, although he noted that patrol officers also do traffic duty and write half the tickets issued to drivers in Abbotsford.
The civilian hire would be a return-to-work co-ordinator who would focus on reducing the number of APD members not able to be fully deployed because of injury or other issues.
Police represents the largest single expense for the city, making up around 28 per cent of the budget, and that share is growing. Under the proposal, the APD’s budget would increase by around $2 million to $47 million. Some of that increase would be covered by higher revenues as the city grows, but about two-thirds would be paid for by increasing taxes.
Non-police expenditures are also slated to rise, albeit not as quickly.
Those hikes would pay for generally increasing costs, infrastructure projects and maintenance, and building reserve funds.
The budget also forecasts 3.75 per cent boosts in water and sewer fees, although those would cost taxpayers just a combined $8 next year. Those would go into reserves to be used to pay for infrastructure improvements when the need arises.
Overall, city manager George Murray told council that staff focused on keeping the tax increase in line with a measure of inflation faced by municipalities, called the municipal price index, which gauges price increases paid out by the city. It factors in things like the cost of fuel, asphalt and other expenses that aren’t captured by consumer-based measures of inflation.
Budget presentations showed Abbotsford spends slightly more than the average for similar-sized municipalities on transportation and transit; slightly below average for the fire department; well-below average on water and sewer; and well-above the average on its police department.
(An earlier version of this story indicated that the city spent slightly above average on the fire department. The error has been changed.)
There would also be smaller increases due to hospital, school and Fraser Valley Regional District taxes.
Taxes rose 2.01 per cent in 2016 and are forecast to rise 2.18 per cent in 2018, according to the proposed budget.
Council must still vote on the budget, and can add input into various aspects and departmental requests.