The need for greater investment in policing and public safety figures prominently in the 2020 budget for City of Chilliwack.
A tax increase of 3.32 per cent is on deck for the 2020-2029 Financial Plan, keeping the focus on public safety with plans to hire more RCMP, firefighters and bylaw enforcement personnel.
Some of those new hires will be geared to addressing added pressures on Chilliwack, which has been recognized as having the highest rates of property crime in the Fraser Valley.
The emphasis on beefed up protective services matches public survey results in recent years, in which “policing received the highest ranking of all the different categories,” Glen Savard, director of finance, told council Tuesday in his budget presentation.
The proposed 3.32 per cent breaks down to a base increase of 2.14 per cent to cover inflationary and non-discretionary items, two RCMP members, one additional RCMP support person, one additional firefighter, one bylaw enforcement officer, and an information technology support position.
An additional 1.18 per cent (added to the base of 2.14 per cent) provides for the third, fourth, fifth and sixth additional RCMP members, a second RCMP support position, a second firefighter and a second bylaw enforcement officer.
The proposed tax rate hike of 3.32 per cent is slightly lower than last year’s 3.43 per cent increase. In 2018 the tax rate increase for Chilliwack taxpayers was 2.62 per cent.
A road rehab line item of $5.2 million appears under capital plans, along with a two-year program for improved street lighting and LED lighting retrofits, and increased electric vehicle charging stations.
City hall expansion is also being planned out due to population growth. The population of Chilliwack has gone from about 17,000 people in 1959 when the current city hall building opened, to today where the population is estimated at 96,000, Savard underlined.
Through this year’s financial planning and budgeting process, Chilliwack maintains its longstanding title as city with the lowest tax rate of all 19 Lower Mainland municipalities and including when utilities, and fees for regional district and school district are added in.
Chilliwack still has the lowest business tax multiplier in the region as well.
The 2020-2029 Financial Plan Bylaw 2019 was given first and second reading Tuesday afternoon, and the budget presentation by director of finance Glen Savard was received by council.
The public information meeting to offer council feedback is set for Dec. 3, 2019. See more at chilliwack.com/budget or email firstname.lastname@example.org