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Council passes ’14 budget, including pay and tax raises
Coquitlam city council got a jump start on its contracts for next year by passing its 2014 budget this week, months before other Metro Vancouver municipalities.
At its last meeting of the year, council voted 8-1 in favour of giving fourth and final reading to the financial plan, which will see property taxes rise an average of 2.42% next year, including a 2.8% hike to residential taxes. That means the owner of a home with the statistically average assessed value of $587,500 will pay approximately $2,927 in taxes and utilities next July. Taxes for owners of business properties will also rise 1.8%.
On Monday, council did not talk about what the $287-milllion budget entails; rather, it heard a long list of complaints from a councillor known for voting against financial plans every year.
In a 10-minute speech, Coun. Lou Sekora took aim at Mayor Richard Stewart, council and city staff for taking money out of reserves to pay for capital and operating projects — a process it goes through annually.
Sekora said he especially didn't like casino funds being used to pay for a new tourism program or how bonus density money (which comes from developers) was going to boost staffing levels.
He argued the budget was being made to look good when, he claimed, council and staff were "twisting" the numbers. "You're re-jiggling the numbers around. The numbers there are being pushed around and made any way you want to," he claimed, although he gave no evidence of that claim.
Then, in an effort to slash the $287-million budget by almost $10,000, Sekora moved a motion (seconded by rookie Coun. Bonita Zarrillo) to stop salary increases for the mayor and council that would match the 1.75% raises budgeted for CUPE Local 386 civic workers as well as city managers.
But Stewart, who said he anticipated "grandstanding" by Sekora over council pay, cautioned council not to "sell yourselves short" as the job of an elected official is full-time. Stewart also defended the city managers' salaries, saying their expertise saves tax dollars.
Stewart said he wished the provincial government offered a remuneration matrix to municipalities to avoid political confrontations.
Councillors Mae Reid and Chris Wilson also said the automatic salary jumps are justified at the end of the year so council doesn't get caught in a scenario such as that in Port Coquitlam several years ago, when PoCo council gave itself a large catch-up increase after several years of a pay freeze.
POSITION 2013 salary 2014 salary
Mayor $127,435 $129,655
Councillor $55,463 $56,433