Port Coquitlam budget one step closer to approval
Port Coquitlam's budget and accompanying 2.97% property tax increase moved one step closer to being implemented after council voted to approve the first three readings of the plan Monday night.
During a special meeting councillors said the budget deliberations had been difficult, but most felt the final document balanced residents need for lower taxes while maintaining service levels.
"The message I heard loud and clear was that we need to do more with less," said Mayor Greg Moore.
The budget plan includes a new artificial turf field, playground and trail improvements and upgrades to the city's cemetery. There are also funds set aside for environmental initiatives that include waste source separation in city parks.
Consultation on the budget document was extensive, Moore said. During last fall's election many councillors heard from the public on the tax issue and the city received more than 250 responses to its budget proposal from residents, he added.
"This budget is informed but what we heard from the public," said Coun. Brad West. "In economic times like this Port Coquitlam families have to stretch their dollars and we have to do the same here."
Coun. Mike Forrest concurred, adding that the city had found the middle ground between maintaining service levels and keeping taxes low.
"None of us are ever happy with increasing taxation," said Coun. Mike Forrest. "But this is a good compromise."
But not all of the members at the council table were supportive of the budget.
Coun. Darrell Penner said during the meeting that the process was flawed and that the budget document ignores some of the public safety concerns that came from residents.
An initial draft document of the financial plan, which included a proposed 4.77% tax increase, included hiring two new police officers and three firefighters.
The expense was removed from the final draft of the budget document, a change Penner said puts the city further behind in terms of public safety. It could also create issues with Coquitlam, which shares the RCMP detachment with PoCo, he added.
"I am extremely disappointed with what has gone on here," he said during the meeting. "We are not keeping up with our portion of policing with Coquitlam. We are falling behind now and it will be worse next year."
Other changes from the first draft of the financial plan to the final document approved Monday night included a reduction for funds set aside for infrastructure replacement costs from $250,000 to $140,000.
Funding for the Port Coquitlam Community Foundation was also reduced from $50,000 to $35,000, while money for the city's Sports Alliance was cut in half, from $30,000 to $15,000.
The changes dropped the 2012 rate increase from a proposed 4.77%, or about $90 for an average single family homeowner, to the current 2.97%, or about $55 per average single family homeowner.
A $41 utility fee increase, much of which is set by Metro Vancouver, did not change in the revised financial plan.