Inflation, transit, cops and library raise taxes

Residential property taxes are set to rise by 3.44 per cent in Chilliwack this year as part of the 2013 financial plan that city council was scheduled to vote on at Tuesday's meeting.

The increases are needed to cover inflation, transit services, the new Sardis Library's operating costs and the RCMP, according to a staff report.

Policing alone accounts for 30 per cent of city hall expenditures. The 2013 budget for cops has increased by $841,500, which includes an annual RCMP contract adjustment, one additional member and a support position.

Homeowners can likely expect a similar tax increase next year as the 2014 budget includes the addition of two more officers.

The pro-rated amount of $640,000 in operating expenses for the new Sardis Library set to open in May accounts for one per cent of the tax increase, according to city hall.

That full operating cost will be $1,027,000 for 2014.

The 3.44 per cent rate increase is similar to those in recent years and continues the trend of local taxpayers paying some of the lowest rates in the Lower Mainland.

Last year, director of finance Chris Cros-man said the average Chilliwack homeowner paid a little more than $1,400 in municipal taxes, second lowest in the Lower Mainland and $456 below average.

When utilities and regional district taxes are included, a Chilliwack home paid just over $3,000, the lowest of 18 Lower Mainland municipalities and $1,186 below the average.

Property taxes also increased 3.45 per cent in 2011. Council approved increases of 3.95 per cent in 2010, 2009, 2008 and 2007. There was a 3.85 per cent tax increase in 2006.

"Chilliwack has been able to maintain this taxation level while building new facilities and meeting financial obligations, without adding municipal debt," according to the the staff report.

Water and sewer rates will also increase this year by 3.44 per cent, and the increase in curbside waste collection planned for 2013 is four per cent.

Staff have also recommended an increase in the $46-per-tonne tipping fee for residential and commercial yard trimmings at the Parr Road Green Depot.

The recommendation is to increase the fee to $50 per tonne, a rate that is still lower than Mission ($60), Abbotsford ($63), Surrey ($63), Maple Ridge ($63) and the North Shore ($71), according to staff.

The finance department has also recommended an inflationary increase-1.85 per cent for single-family homes-in development cost charges (DCC).

City council was scheduled to give introduction and the first three readings to the bylaws covering increases to DCCs, utilities and the 2013 financial plan.

Final adoption of the bylaws will be done after a public information meeting on March 19.

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