The proposed 2020 budget was passed unanimously by council Tuesday night, with extra funding earmarked for policing — again to counter rising crime in Chilliwack.
A tax increase of 3.32 per cent was approved by council as part of the 2020 Financial Plan bylaw.
The protective services boost will see six RCMP, and two RCMP support hired, as well as two firefighters and two bylaw enforcement officers. The City of Chilliwack funds 122 RCMP members, and with the extra six officers, total member strength will be 128, Finance director Glen Savard said in his presentation.
“It’s an effort to reduce crime trends, and reduce high caseloads of officers,” Savard said.
Prioritizing protective services is always the number one priority in public survey results.
“The public asked for more in the public safety realm, and we’ve given it to them,” Mayor Ken Popove stated just before the vote.
Resident Bryden Nelmes asked about flood protection, and the $45 million in dike improvements approved earlier this year and was told it was federal funding for area First Nations, and that the city contribution was $7 million.
The Hope River Flood Box project was also part of Nelmes’ queries and he was told it was also part of the federal dike improvement plan and as such not listed among city projects.
Resident Bob Buhler commented on sections of the Evans Road repaving project, “Gosh, we’ve made mistakes.”
Resident Eryne Croquet asked about Camp-Hope Slough projects, and blueways, and wondered where they were found in the budget.
“Can we expect ongoing funding for the Camp-Hope Sloughs?” she asked in followup.
Coun. Chris Kloot said he was also passionate about the slough restoration efforts, and the past two years that they’ve been cleaning out the watercourses, not just for drainage, but also for aesthetic reasons.
On the subject of the city’s climate/energy/air quality plan update, Croquet said she hoped it would amount to more than the new LED lighting, which she also appreciated.
“While I’m not thrilled with the proposed tax increase, I recognize that with rapid growth, more services will always be required,” Coun. Chris Kloot said after the public spoke.
“I think this is achieving the goals of council under past and present leadership, and I know we remain in a very strong fiscal position which is obviously enviable position to be in, compared with communities across the Lower Mainland, as we saw in the slide.”
The “intense focus” placed on the environment and reducing the carbon footprint was a source of pride, Kloot added.
“Our low tax rate is a huge thing,” added Coun. Harv Westeringh, noting the marked difference between other municipalities with higher tax increases.