Tri-City News

Coquitlam considers 3.34% property tax hike for homeowners

Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart - FILE PHOTO/TRI-CITY NEWS
Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart
— image credit: FILE PHOTO/TRI-CITY NEWS

Coquitlam homeowners will likely pay 3.34% more in property taxes next year, the lowest tax hike the city has seen since 2005 and the fourth straight year of declining increases.

The increase means owners of average-priced homes would pay $95 more than last year. The 2012 increase was 3.56%, or $57.

At Monday's meeting, council voted 8-1 in favour of granting three readings for the city's five-year financial plan, which includes money to hire eight new firefighters for the Burke Mountain fire hall, cash for roads, funding to start a city archive program and increased funding for arts and cultural groups.

The capital plan proposes spending $248 million over the next five years, with the largest portion ($90 million) earmarked for transportation projects: Road enhancement and rehabilitation will get a $64-million boost while $14 million will go to Evergreen Line streetscape projects.

Another $58 million is flagged for parks and recreation facilities, including parkland acquisition ($18 million), park development ($13 million), building the Burke Mountain fire hall ($9 million) and expanding Place Maillardville community centre ($8 million). Another $5 million will go to sports fields.

On top of the 3.34% proposed tax increase, in 2013, residents will be facing a 4% water rate increase ($16), a 2% sewer and drainage rate increase ($8) and a 2% garbage rate increase ($7).

That means the owner of an average home will pay about $2,911 in taxes and utilities next year.

Businesses will again pay 1% less as Coquitlam continues to shift the tax burden to residential ratepayers in an effort to spur economic growth and create jobs in the city. The proposed tax increase for business properties is 2.34%.

Introducing the budget, Mayor Richard Stewart praised council for taking a balanced approach to its deliberations and for eschewing partisan politics in favour of teamwork.

Stewart highlighted recently completed or initiated projects, and singled out the need to create "connected... inclusive, walkable, liveable neighbourhoods" and carefully managing growth as the most important considerations for the coming budget.

Coun. Terry O'Neill praised council's success in keeping the average tax increases (between residential and commercial) on a downward trend, going from 7.1% in 2009 down to 4.96% in 2010, 3.18% in 2011 and 3.16 in 2012 and, for 2013, 2.95%.

"Is there anybody who doesn't like that direction?" he said.

Coun. Lou Sekora, the sole council member to vote against the budget's first three readings, apparently didn't, and took aim at staff for not providing figures for the anticipated 2012 surplus. He suggested the city should wait until next spring, when that number is known, to set the budget.

But Coun. Selina Robinson noted such a budget planning process wouldn't be fiscally sound since the surplus amount would vary from year to year. She added that last year's surplus of $3.4 million, which is automatically set aside in an infrastructure reserve, according to council policy, was needed when the Poirier library branch's roof unexpectedly sprang a leak.

Councillors Neal Nicholson and Craig Hodge said they're pleased to see new firefighters will be hired to staff the Burke Mountain hall, something they said will benefit all Coquitlam residents, while Hodge also highlighted plans to create a city archive program as a significant achievement.

The budget will be up for fourth reading and adoption at next week's council meeting.

spayne@tricitynews.com

 

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