Four tax scenarios presented

Four tax scenarios presented

Mission residents will be presented with four tax scenarios tonight (Thursday) at a special council meeting to discuss this year’s budget.

The proposed tax rates for 2011 are 5.4 per cent, 4.66 per cent, 3.88 per cent and 3.5 per cent.

Council looked at a zero per cent increase, but determined it would not be a wise choice for the long-term future of the community, said Ken Bjorgaard, Mission’s finance director.

The full service budget scenario was reduced from 7.2 per cent to 5.4 per cent due to cost savings in the RCMP contract, no increase to council’s 2011 salary and additional investment income and fee revenue.

A 4.77 per cent increase is needed to maintain existing services, which includes police services (1.19 per cent), transit (1.22 per cent), salaries and benefits (1.97 per cent) and other contractual commitments (0.39 per cent).

The full budget scenario (5.4 per cent) includes hiring an additional police officer (0.45 per cent), a second assistant fire chief (0.26 per cent), funding security guards downtown from taxation instead of gaming funds (0.15 per cent) and increasing funding to the economic development office (0.14 per cent) for community special events grants (0.02 per cent).

All the proposed budgets also include a 1.03 per cent to fund the full-time firefighters hired in October.

The 4.66 per cent tax hike scenario is similar to the full service one, but the district would forego hiring an additional police officer and a second assistant fire chief.

A 3.88 per cent would see the downtown security program funded through gaming revenues, a delay in implementing LiveScan for the RCMP, defer an electronic document management system upgrade and reductions in both the corporate administration and engineering/public works departments.

In order to reduce the budget to 3.5 per cent, training would be reduced for fire/rescue services, the finance department, overtime would be reduced at public hearings for the planning department, and afternoon reception coverage would be cut back for the recreation and culture department.

There will also be increases to water and sewer rates, but refuse will not be going up, noted Bjorgaard.

According to a district handout, 51 per cent of the district’s services are paid through property taxes. The rest comes from sale of services, user rates, investment income, etc.

The district’s budget planning process begins with department managers and staff compiling financial details of each group’s projects and operating areas.

“We do a detailed three-year plan then update the coming year,” explained the finance director.

Council gets involved later to look at the different scenarios and determine if there are other projects they want to put forward or reduce.

Council’s goals are:

• to develop a realistic, coordinated, long-term plan for the downtown/waterfront area;

• to improve the overall health and health care in Mission;

• to enhance overall economic health and increase the knowledge and skills of individuals so they can enter or re-enter the labour market;

• to provide for cultural infrastructure needs, including physical space for culture, senior and youth facilities, and;

• to create a long-term sustainable vision that is inspiring and supported by the community.

The budget meeting tonight takes place at 6:30 p.m. at municipal hall.