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Port Moody will look for ways to trim 2% from proposed property tax increase

Port Moody's draft budget for 2024 anticipates a property tax increase of 8.37 per cent
Improvements and repairs to Port Moody's local and regional roads, as well as water and sewer services, account for the largest portion of the city's provisional capital budget for 2024.

Pencil sharpeners and delete keys at Port Moody City Hall will be getting a workout over the next couple of weeks after Mayor Meghan Lahti challenged staff to find a way to cut two per cent from the city’s proposed 8.37 per cent property tax boost.

She said she hopes to see the revised number by the time council’s finance committee begins digging deep into the details of the city’s draft budget for the coming year at its next meeting on March 5.

“It may not be palatable, but I’m hoping there will be enough nuggets in there we can make it work,” Lahti said Tuesday, Feb. 20.

“We need to look at other options we haven’t already explored.”

But at least one other councillor said he doesn’t just want to see numbers creatively moved around to create the illusion of savings.

“I want to talk about efficiencies,” said Coun. Callan Morrison. “I’m happy to have the tough discussions.”

Paul Rockwood, Port Moody’s general manager of finance and technology, said staff is up to the task, but it won’t be a “painless exercise” to find those efficiencies.

“It’s not our first rodeo,” he said, adding the savings might be accomplished by deferring some expenditures and paying for others from reserve funds.

“It will be a mix of things, maybe a menu council can choose from.”

Lahti said times are tough for many residents who are coping with rising costs for housing, food and transportation, and the city doesn’t have to make it even tougher for them.

Coun. Haven Lurbiecki cautioned any savings should be applied equitably so they don’t impact some residents more than others, or hit some services harder.

Coun. Samantha Agtarap said staff also have to be careful any proposed savings don’t suck the enjoyable aspects of living in Port Moody.

“We need to look at some areas where we can make some efficiencies without making any drastic impact to services and the fun things we have in the city.”

The proposed 8.37 per cent tax increase equates to about $224 for a residential property in the city with an assessed value of $1,248,000.

The draft budget includes an additional $637,000 to hire several new positions like a public art coordinator and new training sergeant for the police department. As well, the city is planning to bring back its Car Free Day festival that’s budgeted to cost $124,000.

Tyson Genske, Port Moody’s deputy chief financial officer, said the city is coping with the same inflationary pressures as residents while revenues are struggling to keep pace.

He said the city is also being downloaded costs traditionally covered by other levels of government, like homelessness, child care and the impacts of climate change.