The proposed tax rate increase of 1.49 proposed for the 2015 Chilliwack budget is down from the rate of 2.44 in 2014.

The proposed tax rate increase of 1.49 proposed for the 2015 Chilliwack budget is down from the rate of 2.44 in 2014.

City budget focus shifts to public safety in Chilliwack

A tax rate increase of 1.49 per cent proposed for Chilliwack would make it the lowest rate in the entire Lower Mainland.

A tax rate increase of 1.49 per cent proposed for Chilliwack this year would make it the lowest rate in the entire Lower Mainland.

“It’s the lowest rate we’ve had in 19 years,” said Mayor Sharon Gaetz.

It was only lower in 1996, when the tax rate increase was set at zero.

“We looked through our budget and thought this is the year people could use a break. We are keeping things as lean and trim as we can.”

There are hiring plans for extra police officers, with additions over several years, and additional firefighters in the whittled down 2015 budget.

Introduction and first readings of 2015 financial plan were scheduled for Tuesday’s council meeting, with an information hearing set for March 17 in council chambers.

“It’s all about continuing on a path of restraint,” said Gaetz. “We have excellent amenities and we didn’t create any debt.”

The city’s leaner budget also reflects the shift in emphasis from completing capital projects to boosting public safety with staffing.

“We’ve been busy with capital projects in recent years, and the last major one was the Sardis Library,” she said.

There are plans to hire two RCMP officers in 2015, as well as one fire trainer and three fire fighters. They’re also adding another bylaw enforcement officer.

“I’m really glad we’re now the lowest of 19 communities. We’re very excited about this. It’s the right thing to do,” she said.

Chilliwack has the lowest tax rate and that includes utilities, and fees for regional district and school district. They also boast the lowest business multiplier at 2.2.

The budget for 2015 falls within a 10 year financial plan and calls for a new curling rink in 2018.

The proposed rate of 1.49 is down from the rate of 2.44 in 2014. In 2013, it was 3.44 per cent.

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

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