It’s another lean budget for Chilliwack that recognizes the harsh impact of recessionary times, said Mayor Sharon Gaetz.
A 3.45 per cent tax increase is in store for Chilliwack homeowners in 2011.
It’s actually lower than the 3.95 per cent hike taxpayers saw both in 2009 and 2010.
“We are very aware people in our community are struggling,” said Gaetz. “I hope it’s clear we’re being respectful in not asking for additional bells and whistles.”
City officials are not proposing cuts to services or staff in the $77.7 million operating million budget, but they don’t have “grandiose” spending plans either, she said. Introduction and three readings of the 2011 financial plan bylaw were approved Tuesday.
It provides for the purchase of a brand-new bus and HandyDART bus for the local transit system, as well as saving capital costs for a new $3-million library on the south side of town to be built in 2012.
An upgrade is planned for the Yarrow Fire Hall, and the addition to the Chilliwack Archives will be completed.
Additional parking spaces are going in at The Landing site, and some park upgrades and greening of the downtown will continue.
“We’ve worked with a pretty lean budget over the last two years and this one is leaner still,” said the mayor.
It’s significant, she noted, that a typical Abbotsford homeowner will pay 34% more in taxes than Chilliwack owners will, as they’re facing a hike of 4.3 per cent.
“Surrey is the only community with a lower rate,” said Gaetz, and that is due mostly to Surrey’s large commercial and industrial base.
The biggest share goes to policing costs from RCMP which accounts for 29 per cent of taxation.
“Part of it is out of our control, like the 6.9 per cent increase for policing, which adds up to $1.1 million dollars,” she said.
That’s part of the reason why council cannot propose a zero per cent increase.
To soften the impact of contract adjustments, they could cut RCMP members.
“But there is no appetite on council to do that.”
Chilliwack residents are invited to offer feedback, in writing to firstname.lastname@example.org, or in person at the next council meeting on March 15. Go to www.chilliwack.com to see the budget documents.
Council approved introduction and three readings of a five-year financial plan starting in 2011.