By Janis Warren The Tri-City News
Dec 13 2006
Coquitlam homeowners will be hit next July with their biggest property tax bill in recent years.
Monday, city council voted 6-2 to hike property taxes by 5.42%, meaning a resident living in a home with the statistically average value of $450,000 will see property taxes and utility charges increase to about $2,028 — a $119 jump over this year.
The financial plan also calls for a 12% water rate hike, a 6% sewer and drainage rate increase and a 3.25% solid waste levy rise, mostly to offset the cost of the Bear Aware Program.
Cost drivers for the proposed budget, which is to be ratified tonight (Wednesday) at a special council meeting, include:
• 12 new firefighters to form a second company at the Town Centre fire hall;
• six additional RCMP officers, as outlined in the city’s 10-year plan for police services;
• 11.5 additional city hall employees;
• funding to operate the new Glen Pine seniors’ centre; and
• development of the Town Centre sports tournament site (phase 1).
The financial plan, which must be adopted by May 15, also calls for $66,400 to pay councillors in the mayor’s role. Earlier this year, Mayor Maxine Wilson was criticized for unexpectedly taking several weeks off for holidays. As a result, councillors had to step in to act on her behalf at meetings and functions.
Coquitlam Fire/Rescue Chief Gordon Buchanan said he’s pleased council responded to his department’s needs. He said the extra company — plus the recent construction of the David Avenue connector — will better serve northeast Coquitlam, where the city anticipates another 24,000 residents will be housed over the next 20 years.
Of the city’s $145-million annual operating budget, the fire department eats up 10% — or $14.6 million — while the RCMP takes the largest chunk at 15% — or $21 million.
Coun. Barrie Lynch said the extra Mounties — nine in total, including three funded by the city of Port Coquitlam, which shares the detachment — will help with the city’s police-to-population ratio. For years, Coquitlam and PoCo have had among the lowest rates in the country for cities of their size, according to Statistics Canada.
But Coun. Lou Sekora, who, along with Coun. Richard Stewart, voted against the budget, said he’s disappointed council didn’t hire more Mounties, saying the detachment is 40 cops short.
Sekora also questioned why council didn’t use the city’s $1-million surplus, generated from growth, to offset property taxes. City-owned land could also be sold to keep taxes low, he said.
Stewart, who voiced concern about the lack of public consultation on the budget, said he would like the process next year to start in September, not November.
Several councillors tipped their hats to Coun. Doug Macdonell, who lead the charge to bring sports fees in line with those in neighbouring cities (council is expected to adopt the fees and charges bylaw tonight).
As a result, non-profit youth groups won’t have to pay a penny to play on sports fields, including turf fields. Macdonell said the savings should allow sports organizations to lower their registration costs.
Despite the hefty tax increase for 2007, the city anticipates property tax increases dropping to between 3.2% and 2.4% from 2008 to 2011.
Both the cities of Port Coquitlam and Port Moody estimate residential property taxes to hover around 5% next year.