Taxes to rise 2.57 per cent

Hike includes 1.59 per cent in general tax and 0.87 per cent increase for police.

Abbotsford taxes are set to rise by 2.57 per cent in 2016, with an increase of 1.59 per cent in general tax and an additional 0.87 per cent added for police services and 0.11 per cent for the Fraser Valley Regional Library.

Water and sewer fees are staying put, though tiered pricing for heavy users is being eliminated.

The new budget plan would result in roughly $53 more in annual property taxes for an owner of a $406,000 single family residence, a reference value provided by the city.

The increase is called for in response to rising contract costs, such as construction and maintenance, fuel and natural gas expenses, and a reduction in the amount of investment income.

The plan will focus on early payout of water and sewer debt in 2016, toward an overall goal of reducing the city’s long-term debt load, which stands at about $70 million, the majority of which was borrowed to build the Abbotsford Centre. Debt for the facility will remain outstanding until 2032.

The overall operating expenses for the city are budgeted at $184 million, with capital costs budgeted at $40 million. There are over 800 city employees.

The arena will continue to operate at a loss, projected at $2.7 million in 2016, factoring in the cost of debt interest. The city implemented a plan last year called “A New Game” that aims to increase community programming in the facility.

The library increase, as determined by the Fraser Valley Regional Library board, includes contractual increases in labour costs and an inflationary increase in the cost of purchasing library materials.

The police budget increase would fund five new positions: four investigative support officers and one IT help desk analyst.

Investigative support officers are not trained to the same level as regular police officers, and are paid at a lower rate. They support police with routine tasks like collecting witness statements and processing probation check-ins.

Budget documents said the city will continue work in 2016 on a revised Official Community Plan along with neighbourhood-level plans, which will be completed with community input.

There was a municipal tax decrease of 0.41 per cent in 2014, in contrast to increases over several previous years. Taxes increased 5.5 per cent in 2009, 4.5 per cent in 2010, and 4.3 per cent in 2011; the city then saw more-modest hikes of 1.66 per cent in 2012 and 1.28 per cent in 2013.

The financial plan is set to receive final approval at a Nov. 16 council meeting.

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