A 2.98% property tax hike proposed in Coquitlam

The average Coquitlam homeowner will see a $128 increase when their property tax bill arrives next year, if the budget presented to council this week is approved.

While the property tax portion has only jumped approximately 3%, a large part of the increase is due to rising Metro Vancouver utility rates: up 6% each for water and sewer, and 3% for waste collection.

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"We do understand that in many households, even a small tax increase is keenly felt," said Mayor Richard Stewart in his annual budget address. "But when it comes to our city's financial health, we must be responsible and take a long-term view."

The overall tax increase for all property owners is 2.64%. But because the city is working to shift some of the burden away from businesses, residential properties will see a 2.98% jump while non-residential property taxes will only rise by 1.98%.

New revenue sources have helped temper hikes in Coquitlam, where residents have seen some of the lowest increases in the region over the last few years. In 2020, for example, the city expects to earn an additional $500,000 in additional investment earnings while user fees and lease revenue should bring in another $1.5 million.

Rapid residential property growth has also helped offset taxes, said Michelle Hunt, the city's general manager of finance and technology, with the city projected to add $2 million to the base budget from construction and property assessment increases.

"The big piece is the offsetting property tax growth we are getting," she said, later adding: "When we take a single-family dwelling and make it a multi-family dwelling, suddenly we are collecting taxes from 30 people instead of one person."

While rapid construction is helping keep rates low today, there are some big-ticket items on the horizon, including a new northeast rec centre and the redevelopment of Place Maillardville, that will require revenue increases, Hunt said.

She added that staff will be looking at options for smoothing out tax hikes over time to avoid big jumps occurring in a single year. That could mean taking in more revenue than is necessary in a some years in order to offset rises in others, she said.

"We have committed to take to council strategies on smoothing future tax increases," she said. "We have all these big community recreation facilities [being built] over the next 10 years. Each time we open one of those, it is going to have a hit to the operating budget, so we are going to have to smooth that out so we don't get those spikes in those years."

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