Budget debate contines: Tax increase now at 1.36 per cent

Final debate expected next week as staff recommend savings for capital fund.

Abbotsford residents are currently facing a municipal tax increase of 1.36 per cent next year. However, that number could change as council prepares for a final round of budget discussions.

On Monday night, staff presented its 2013 financial plan, which includes a 0.16 per cent hike for city operations, 0.42 per cent for police and 0.78 per cent to adjust for lost revenue due to provincial changes to farm taxes.

The provincial farm tax exemption, which was altered in March 2012, increased the tax exemption amounts available to farmers on their out buildings, impacting the city by as much as $900,000 in lost tax revenue.

Staff has also asked council to consider additional increases ranging from 0.3 to 0.7 for future capital projects.

If council approves the current 1.36 per cent increase, the average homeowner (based on a $400,000 assessed home) will see taxes go up by $24 a year, while a business assessed at the same amount would see a $64 increase.

The financial plan calls for no increase to the water rates, a five per cent hike to sewer rates and a two per cent bump in storm drainage rates.

Combined with the proposed tax increase, the average homeowner would see the annual bill rise by $40 per year.

n A decision on a proposed rural uplands drainage fee was deferred.

A staff report made several recommendations on how to acquire funds for minimum ditch maintenance in the area.

One proposal suggested landowners be charged a fee of $5 per acre each year. That would generate $200,000, with another $100,000 coming from the city’s roads budget.

Currently, Abbotsford collects funds for drainage purposes from the Matsqui and Sumas Prairie dyking and drainage districts, as well as from the urban drainage area. The rural upland area (west of Matsqui Prairie and lands on Sumas Mountain)  has never had a drainage fee structure.

Residents of the area, consisting of about 3,400 properties, have voiced opposition to any new charges.

Council will debate the issue at a future meeting.