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Covering off inflation

The average Chilliwack homeowner will pay $51 more in residential taxes in 2013 after city council gave introduction and first three readings to its financial plan bylaw at Tuesday's meeting.

Council did not discuss the plan that will see residential taxes rise by 3.44 per cent.

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

Director of finance Kathleen Fraser said more than half of the required increase is to cover inflationary pressures, mostly through negotiated wage contracts.

"Chilliwack continues to have lower per capita spending levels when compared to other nearby communities," Fraser told council.

Next to Surrey, which has a large industrial/ commercial tax base, Chilliwack has the lowest municipal taxes out of 18 Lower Mainland communities. When garbage collection, utilities and regional district taxes are included, Chilliwack has the lowest overall taxes.

Fraser said the average Chilliwack residential taxpayer will pay $767 less in total taxes than a similar homeowner in Langley, $761 lower than in Maple Ridge and $894 lower than in Abbotsford.

Of the 3.44 per cent increase, one per cent accounts for the $640,000 pro-rated operating costs for the new Sardis Library set to open in early May.

Total operating costs for the library for 2014 are estimated at just more than $1 million.

Fraser said two per cent of the required increase is due to negotiated wage increases.

"We are also seeing pressures in our services and general supply costs," she said.

The remaining 0.44 per cent increase is to pay for additional RCMP staffing, more funds for public works maintenance, downtown core improvements and money for improved transit service.

The planned transit service improvements includes increasing service in the Vedder additional RCMP staff, more service corridor from three evenings to seven evenings a week.

Of the city's annual budget, 31 per cent goes to policing, 17 per cent to transportation, 15 per cent to parks and recreation, 11 per cent to fiscal services, nine per cent each to general government and fire services, and five per cent to libraries.

Water and sewer rates will also increase this year by 3.44 per cent, and the increase in curb-side waste collection is four per cent.

Council also agreed to increase the $46 per tonne tipping fee for residential and commercial yard trimmings at the Parr Road Green Depot to $50.

Fraser told council the city also continues to have the lowest business tax multiplier in the Lower Mainland.

? The public information meeting where residents are welcome to provide feedback is March 19 at 7 p.m. in council chambers.

$ 51 AVERAGE RESIDENTIAL TAX INCREASE

$ 29.65 - Inflation

negotiated wages

$ 14.83 - Sardis Library

pro-rated operational costs

$ 6.52 - Police, transit

phenderson@chilliwacktimes.com

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