PORT MOODY — If Port Moody residents are unpleased by the prospect of forking over an extra Borden for their property taxes this year, they sure aren’t showing it.
The city held a budget public consultation meeting Thursday night at Inlet Centre and, much like many meetings in the past on the topic, staff and council outnumbered residents.
But that didn’t stop the city from presenting the preliminary 2013 budget, which is calling for a 6.65 per cent tax increase.
That figure works out to $113 for the average Port Moody household.
City officials point out the budget isn’t set in stone. The tax increase, when factored in with the 0.3 per cent utility rate increase, works out to a 4.3 per cent tax increase or $116 per household.
Port Moody resident Terry Hyska was one of only a handful of residents who asked questions related to the budget.
He said he’s not so worried about this year’s tax increase, but rather what plans are in place to spur economic growth in future years as city expenses continue to rise.
“I don’t see that much new business coming to Port Moody,” Hyska told The NOW, adding the answers to his question reaffirmed what he already assumed — that the Evergreen Line has put economic development on hold.
He said he’s cautiously optimistic economic development around the future transit line would bring relief to the city’s bottom line.
Other topics discussed were the possibility of pay parking as a revenue generator, and the potential impact if Metro Vancouver were to move to a regional police force.
A further breakdown of the budget numbers shows the bulk of the shortfall is related to an increase in salaries worth $570,000, or 1.93 per cent, and $650,000 in policing costs, which is worth another 2.21 per cent.
Other items in the budget shortfall include $143,000 for the Inlet Centre fire hall debt levy, $192,000 for inflation, and $444,000 for operational service priorities.
City councillors also weighed in with their thoughts about the budget.
Coun. Rosemary Small said she feels the tax increase is too high and is hoping it can be reduced by one or two per cent.
“It’s very difficult. People are demanding in our city that they get good service and we’re trying to provide it,” she said.
“I would not like to see us cut service for the sake of cutting taxes.”
Coun. Gerry Nuttall said he’s been advocating for zero-increase budgeting since he started on council, adding he plans to bring forward ideas to chop the increase by up to half.
“We will be thoroughly discussing and debating this to get it to the very least increase we possibly can,” he said.
Mayor Mike Clay suggested even though the number of people at the input session was small, the message is usually the same.
“They [residents] like the service levels, but they want to make sure they’re getting value for their dollar, and so do I,” he said.
Clay also cautioned that new revenue sources like pay parking could end up being just another tax on residents.
He also didn’t appear in a rush to make drastic cuts in the budget to drop the tax-rate increase.
“You can always cut a budget, [but] what is it that you’re cutting and what’s the impact?” he asked.
The total city budget for the 2013 is pegged at $31.3 million, with nearly a third or $9.3 million going toward police services.
If the budget stays put, homeowners can expect to pay $2,837 in total property taxes in 2013 based on the average assessed property value of $531,600.
The next steps for the budget include more budget deliberations and the adoption of the tax rates bylaw by May 2013.