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Resident decries municipal tax increase

Council kept its 2011 tax increase to the lowest level it possibly could without cutting key services.

That was the message from city hall after councillors voted in favour of the 2011 financial plan bylaw, which includes a 3.45 per cent tax hike.

Resident Gary Raddysh beseeched council to instead consider a zero per cent increase.

“I believe that all Canadians are taxed enough already, and there could be plenty of tax money available to improve our growing communities,” he said.

He spoke up during the public information hearing held to allow residents to offer opinions on the budget. Although he acknowledged that the discussion was strictly about municipal taxes, and not about federal and provincial spending, he nonetheless underlined the importance other levels of government have when it comes to “influencing the funding of our municipal programs.”

He called for an end to carbon tax, HST and Canada’s participation in the war in Afghanistan.

“Prices for home heating, vehicle fuel, electricity, food, insurance, and loan interest rates are creeping continuously higher,” Raddysh stated. “Our economy is in a fragile recovery phase. Taxpayers cannot afford any increase in taxes.”

In the end council voted unanimously to approve the 2011 budget.

Coun. Ken Huttema called it “a prudent use of our resources.”

The state of Chilliwack’s roads and the transit system are areas they’ll continue to work on, he said.

Coun. Chuck Stam said a zero per cent increase is just not an option, even though his approval of this “small” increase came only after some “kicking and screaming” and discussions about inflationary pressures on contracts and materials.

Coun. Sue Attrill said she was confident the budget “had no frills.”

Mayor Sharon Gaetz praised staff for creating a budget plan “that is something affordable and forward-thinking which doesn’t put us behind.”

Despite the inclusion on one new conventional transit bus and one HandyDart bus in the budget, improvements in bus frequency are not on the horizon.

“I would love to see us go further with our transit,” she added, but other considerations took priority.

The city received mostly positive feedback, as well as several letters of concern about the budget plans and documents, which can be seen online at www.chilliwack.com.

The biggest share of the Chilliwack budget goes to policing costs from RCMP which accounts for 29 per cent of taxation.

By comparison a typical Abbotsford homeowner will pay 34% more in taxes than Chilliwack owners, as they’re facing a hike of 4.3 per cent.

Surrey is the only community with a lower rate due mostly to its larger commercial and industrial base.

“I very much support this budget,” Gaetz said. “And I wish we could do more. I’m looking forward to seeing the new library come online.”

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

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