Coun. Ken Herar pulled out a foam costume during a council meeting to protest tax increases during the pandemic. Acting Mayor Cal Crawford, immediately told him to put it away, and that council was not a “high school performance.” / Video Image

Coun. Ken Herar pulled out a foam costume during a council meeting to protest tax increases during the pandemic. Acting Mayor Cal Crawford, immediately told him to put it away, and that council was not a “high school performance.” / Video Image

Heated debate at Mission council over property-tax increase in 2021 budget

Councillor brings out costume, acting mayor tells him this isn’t a ‘high school performance’

District of Mission councillors were split over tax increases in the budget during a meeting last week. Three councillors were in favour of staff’s recommended tax increases, and three were not.

Staff had recommended a net-property tax increase (including utilities) of 2.24 per cent to help pay $1.27 million in new services, staffing and previous spending obligations.

Tensions rose during the discussion when Coun. Ken Herar suggested a tax freeze for 2021 and brought out a foam costume to protest any tax increase during the pandemic.

“A tax freeze can be achieved with minimal consequences on capital expenditures and no effects with cutbacks on staffing,” Herar said. “This is the right thing to do without causing setbacks to the district.”

MORE:Mission council approves $300,000 for biking pump track

Acting Mayor Cal Crawford immediately told Herar that council is not a “high-school performance” and that his costume needed to be put away. He said the district is still “paying the piper” from previous years of cutbacks.

“I know the public; they want to see zero because it’s the simplest, it’s the nicest, it’s the safest way to move – but it’s also the shortest outlook. We are in a community that is busting at the seams,” Crawford said. “It’s not only busting at the seams to grow, but it’s busting at the seams to be maintained.”

The district recently completed a public survey, which received 148 responses about taxation in relation to public services: 57 per cent said they want to cut services to reduce or maintain the current taxation rate, while 35 per cent wanted to increase taxes to maintain or increase services.

Eighty-eight per cent of the respondents owned their homes.

Herar stood alone on his position of a zero per cent tax increase, and the three councillors approving of staff’s recommendations felt his suggestion was ridiculous.

Coun. Danny Plecas said the district is growing rapidly and many developments will add substantially to the tax base and community amenity fees – but these projects will need to be serviced. New developments in 2021 are projected to add $400,000 to municipal coffers, according to the budget.

READ: District seeks input on budget

“It is totally impractical for anybody to suggest that we continue the level of services we provide and go to a zero budget. It’s impossible. You’d be cutting services,” he said. “That’s absolutely ridiculous … Are you doing the public any favours this year or are you just going to look good this year?”

Plecas warned sharply against draining the district’s reserve funds, which he said is essential for major upcoming infrastructure projects.

“Our water and sewer infrastructure needs, between now and 15 years [from now], is in the hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said. “If you’re taking money out of reserves – guess what – next year we’re going to have to increase water and sewer fees.”

Out of the total $1.27 million increase, $92,000 would be put towards a new administrative assistant for the parks and recreation department, and $50,000 would be used to fund programming at the Clarke Theatre.

Coun. Jag Gill, who voted against moving the budget forward, said he was “very surprised” other councillors wanted to hire any positions at all. He said he would be in favour of going through every department to see where “we could tighten our belts.”

“We need to be very conservative with this budget,” he said. “People that are just about to be brought to their knees are going to be brought to their knees.”

Coun. Carol Hamilton said the 2.24 per cent increase is not a big ask of the community, considering Mission is one of the fastest growing communities in the area. She said for the average home, it works out to an additional $6.54 a month.

Council eventually passed a motion to move the budget forward to a first draft with a 4-2 vote, after an amendment was made to draw $140,000 from municipal reserves and keep the net-tax increase at two per cent, saving residents 70 cents a month.

Several councillors asked how the $5 million in provincial and federal funding for the “Safe Restart” plan can be used.

Staff said the funds will be used to subsidize the municipal shortfalls associated with COVID-19, such as the operational costs, but it cannot be used to reduce taxes in any way.

budgetMission

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A massive fire at the Delair Court Apartments destroyed one of the buildings on the morning of Feb. 14. (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)
Salvation Army thanks residents for ‘incredible generosity’ to victims of apartment fire

16 palettes of items donated to those who lost homes in Delair Court Apartments

Dr. Carin Bondar moderates a panel for an online event being hosted by UFV on March 8 for International Women’s Day. (Submitted photo)
UFV presents International Women’s Day event with Choose to Challenge theme

Online panel on Monday, March 8 discuss how they handle life’s challenges

web
Spirit Animal Totems: The Spirit Within exhibition on display at Mission gallery

The work of Mission artist Nancy Arcand showcased at Rock Family Gallery from March 2-20

(Black Press file photo)
Child in critical condition after Harrison Mills incident, homicide investigators deployed

The child was transported to hospital but is not expected to survive

Churches, including Langley's Riverside Calvary Church, are challenging the regulations barring them from holding in-person worship services during COVID-19. (Langley Advance Times file)
Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19 vaccination set to start for B.C. seniors aged 80-plus

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen takes part in an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on October 27, 2020. The City of Vancouver says it has purchased a former hotel at a major thoroughfare that can house about 65 units to accommodate homeless people. A joint news release by the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and city says 2075 Kingsway, Days Inn by Wyndham Vancouver, will be ready for accommodation this November. The Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen also announced a $51.5 million Rapid Housing Initiative for Vancouver that is expected to create 135 new affordable homes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Former Vancouver hotel to be converted to 65 units for homeless people by the fall

The former Days Inn on Kingsway will be ready to house people in November

B.C. Court of Appeal in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Murder conviction upheld in case where Surrey mom was stabbed in front of her kids

Jury in 2017 found Tanpreet Kaur Athwal, aka Sonia Kaur Gill, guilty of first-degree murder in 2007 death of Amanpreet Bahia, 33

Det. Sgt. Jim Callender. (Hamilton Police Service screenshot)
B.C. man dead, woman seriously injured after shooting in Hamilton, Ont.

The man was in the process of moving to the greater Toronto area, police say

A GoFundMe campaign for Riley Stevens and his family has raised more than $5,700 since launching last week. (Contributed photo)
White Rock mom of sick tot ‘totally blown away’ by donations, offers help

GoFundMe campaign to help family of Riley Stevens crests $5,700

Sewage plant in Lower Mainland, operated by Metro Vancouver. (Metro Vancouver screenshot)
‘Poop tracker’ launches as researchers test Lower Mainland sewage water for COVID-19

‘Studying the virus in wastewater allows researchers to look at an entire population…’

(Pxhere)
Compensation fund opens for B.C. students negatively affected by incorrect exam marks

Marks for 2019 provincial exams were incorrectly tabulated

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Time to check the mail: Every household to receive a Canada Post postcard this spring

Postcard can be mailed for free to any address in Canada

Most Read