Mission budget proposes 1.49 % hike in property tax; 2% for utilities

The proposed budget will be presented Nov. 5 prior to council meeting

A 1.49 per cent property tax increase plus a two per cent utilities increase is being proposed for 2013.

The total impact on the average home in Mission ($391,000) is $51.31.

A 1.49 per cent increase will give Mission $396,000 to help reduce its $17-million debt (as of Dec. 31, 2011).

This year’s budget addresses debt retirement, frees up funds for future infrastructure maintenance and replacement, said Kerri Onken, Mission’s deputy treasurer/collector.

Mission had borrowed money to build a fire hall, emergency operation centre, Leisure Centre, Sports Park, and water and sewer infrastructure. Now some of that debt is up for renewal.

“At the 10-year anniversary, we can pay down or pay off the debt so we don’t incur future principle and interest payments,” said Onken, noting not all of it is up for renewal in 2013, but the district’s strategy will be implemented over the next three years.

The plan will see $5.7 million from reserves used to pay out existing debt in 2013 and 2014, which would save about $4.5 million in interest over 10 years. Water utility would be debt free in 2014, rather than 2024, and sewer utility would be debt free in 2016, rather than 2024.

Service levels in Mission will be unchanged as the district is implementing different processes to save money. The district’s restructuring eliminated 6.3 positions earlier this year, which provides an ongoing savings of about $600,000, according to Chief Administrative Officer Ken Bjorgaard in his report. He also added another $409,000 in savings were found through a detailed department review.

The budget also allows for two new positions, manager of asset/infrastructure and a manager of citizen engagement and corporate initiatives at a cost of $218,933. Additional support for economic development, transit and snow removal were built into the budget. The district’s top three operating expenditures are public safety (33 per cent and a budget of $13.4 million), Parks, Recreation and Culture (14 per cent; $5.6 million), and Administration (13 per cent; $5 million). Public safety includes RCMP and fire/rescue service, while administration includes council expenses, financing, corporate administration, purchasing, and municipal buildings, excluding the Leisure Centre.

Most of these items are not paid for through taxation, explained Onken. For example, user fees pay for the majority of the costs to run the Parks, Recreation and Culture department.

The top three items, paid by taxation, are policing ($9 million), public works ($3.4 million) and fire/rescue service ($2.5 million).

District staff will present the proposed budget to the public Nov. 5 before a council meeting inside council chambers at 6 p.m.