Downtown foot patrols started last year in Chilliwack with the budget boost of 10 new RCMP officers, and there are a total of five new members proposed in the 2018 budget. (Jennifer Feinberg/ The Progress file)

Chilliwack budget continues to prioritize public safety

Five RCMP on deck for proposed Financial Plan 2018 with new roundabouts and expanded transit

The 2018 budget for Chilliwack received first and second reading at city hall last week, with a proposed 2.62 per cent tax increase on deck for approval.

The next step is a public hearing Dec. 5, at 7 p.m. in council chambers.

The 2018 Financial Plan “continues” to address public safety concerns, noted Glen Savard, director of finance, in his slide presentation at the Tuesday council meeting last week.

Policing represents a 32-per-cent wedge of the budget pie, with fire protective services another 10 per cent.

Protective services, and specifically policing, was again given the highest priority by citizens who weighed in with the City of Chilliwack’s online engagement tool.

There were 10 new RCMP officers added in 2017 in response to “increasing crime trends and high officer case loads.”

They’re asking for a total five additional officers for 2018, and two more firefighters.

The idea is to increase foot patrols, and continue developing the new “quick response” protocol, whereby RCMP officers can be dispatched quicker when an incident requires immediate attention.

The proposed tax rate increase of 2.62 per cent breaks down this way:

• 1.49% – Base tax increase (includes 2 RCMP)

• 0.67% – RCMP officer additions (3 additional RCMP)

• 0.46% – Public transit expansion

Here’s how the proposed increase of 2.62 per cent compares. Last year the tax rate increase was 3.5 per cent, when council approved 10 new RCMP officers, and the year before, 2016, it was 1.89 per cent.

READ MORE: Budget 2017

Feedback from the public, from the online engagement from last month, showed considerable support for boosted public safety funding meaning policing mainly, even if it meant higher tax allocation, said Savard.

Transit services are expanding next year with faster service anticipated on some routes and extended route services are coming for others. The extra revenue generated will reduce the net cost of expanded services.

Road rehabilitation gets a $3.3 million investment, which is a quarter of a million dollars more than for 2017. Capital investments include more roundabouts, intersection improvements, bike lanes, and green gyms.

Camp Slough Enhancement efforts saw $100,000 allocated in 2016, and in 2017 to see what it would take to increase flow and improve water quality.

The preliminary analysis estimates costs of slough restoration in the $26 million to $32 million range.

“Based on the project magnitude” it would take community buy-in and funding from senior levels of government, Savard reported.

Another $100,000 is earmarked for the slough strategy study for 2018.

The base tax increase covers two more police/firefighters, but also an extra public works equipment operator, two parks workers, more bike lanes, street sweeping and snow removal.

Savard took on the one question for city officials that comes up every year: “Why can’t council approve a zero per cent tax increase?”

”A zero per cent tax increase would, therefore, require a reduction in service levels, that would be lost in perpetuity and would require a future tax increase to re-establish,” he said.

For more details call the Finance Department at 604.793.2931 or email budget@chilliwack.com

To see the budget presentation go to www.chilliwack.com/budget


 

@chwkjourno
jfeinberg@theprogress.com

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A comparison of total taxes in communities across the Lower Mainland shows Chilliwack has the lowest. (Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development)

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