Council to discuss tax increase ranging from 1.52 to 4.33 per cent

This year's city tax increase could range be 1.52 per cent and 4.33 per cent.

Potential tax increases ranging from as low as 1.52 per cent and as high as 4.33 per cent are going to be presented to council Monday afternoon.

The staff report indicates a 4.33 per cent preliminary tax increase would be needed to address key changes from the 2011 budget. However, it also offered several areas where cuts could decrease the percentage.

“With all of the reductions we would be at 1.52 per cent for operating and capital,” said city manager Frank Pizzuto.

But he pointed out there are four items that have not been resolved in the report.

“Council can consider transit expansion, fee for service increases, Ledgeview and special events. Those things would then increase the 1.52, depending on how much of that they approve,” explained Pizzuto.

Two weeks ago local service groups – including the Abbotsford Arts Council, Agrifair, The Reach and Elizabeth’s Wildlife Centre – made requests to council for extra funding. The Ledgeview Golf Course also requires $250,000 in funding. Council has made no decision on any of the requests. A $235,000 expansion for transit services and a proposed  $100,000 for special events coordination, are also missing from the final tax figures.

All of the extra funding requests total $854,000. Pizzuto said if council chose to move forward with the 1.52 per cent increase and approved all the funding requests, the increase would become 2.3 per cent.

A one per cent tax increase represents $1,094,000 of city revenue. To a home owner, a one per cent increase equals an extra $5 for every $100,000 assessed value of the home. For businesses or commercial properties, it equals $13 for every $100,000 assessed value.

Thetax increase figures are merely suggestions made by staff.

“These are things that staff is presenting to council and council can make some decisions on whether this makes sense or whether they would like to do something different,” said Pizzuto

Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman said he thinks staff has done a “very good” job presenting options.

“The initial amount that city staff asked for was 4.33, to which council’s instruction to staff was …  show us how much fat you can cut off and that’s when they came back with the 1.52,” said Banman.

He expects a long and complex debate on Monday as councillors examine the proposal and try to make some hard choices.

“I said all along that cities cannot continue to spend and have tax increases greater than growth or inflation. It’s not sustainable … in this community, there are a lot of people hurting,” said Banman.

Monday’s council meeting is set for 1 p.m. at the Matsqui Centennial Auditorium.

Council has also scheduled a series a public information meetings to get people’s views on the proposed budget, which they hope to have completed by March 5.