Department heads at Port Moody City Hall are being tasked to sharpen their pencils and find ways to save money or increase revenues in an effort to shave a proposed 11.33 per cent property tax increase.
Tuesday, council’s finance committee asked staff to report back with possible economies to deal with what once councillor called “an unprecedented situation.” Their findings will then be discussed in a future closed meeting.
Coun. Diana Dilworth said the draft budget’s double-digit property tax boost that was presented to council last month is “shocking.”
She added, “It behooves every member of this council to ask where we have to cut and where we can increase revenues.”
Port Moody’s manager of financial planning, Tyson Ganske, said the proposed property tax increase would cost the average homeowner in the city an additional $311 when the annual storm sewer and drainage fee is included.
Ganske said the increase presumes council’s approval for all new funding requirements, such as additional new staff positions and new operating expenses to meet ongoing service demands.
As well, the draft budget includes the return of several city events, like Cheer at the Pier and Canada Day celebrations, that had been put on hold or pared down during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Couns. Kyla Knowles and Callan Morrison said it’s important those events return to the calendar.
“They’re what bring us together,” said Morrison, who also asked whether it might be possible for Port Moody to use some of the $6.7 million it’s to receive from the provincial government’s Growing Communities Fund to help pay for projects being funded from the city’s reserves.
But Port Moody’s general manager of finance and technology, Paul Rockwood, said the city has to tread carefully with that one-time windfall.
“Obviously we don’t want to reduce the tax rate and kick the can down the road.”
Coun. Samantha Agtarap reminded her fellow councillors that it’s not just residents facing a massive property tax boost: Businesses will also be getting a bigger bill even as they continue to recover from the impacts of public health restrictions and closures during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s been hard for everyone,” she said.
Coun. Amy Lubik, who chairs the finance committee, said the city needs to find efficiencies to whittle the proposed increase that’s more than double the 5.48 per cent boost facing Coquitlam residents and more than triple Port Coquitlam’s 3.3 per cent increase.
“Looking for every department to look for cost savings this year is a good way forward,” she said.