Mission tax increase should not exceed 2.5 per cent

Council looking at a tax hike in the range of 0.65 to 2.5 per cent for 2015.

Mission taxpayers can expect a municipal tax increase between 0.65 per cent and an “absolute maximum” of 2.5 per cent, according to Mayor Randy Hawes.

“We are extremely hopeful that it will come in considerably less than that,” said Hawes.

Currently, council has discussed a tax increase of about 0.65 per cent but not all of the costs have been factored in.

Hawes said there are still some “things that are unknown” so the final increase may rise, but it is unclear by how much.

“We are, I think, looking at a small tax increase and we are certainly aiming to keep it in line with at least the cost of living.”

If the increase was to rise to 2.5 per cent, that would include over half a million dollars which would be used for “discretionary spending.”

“We have set an upper limit, but we want to hear what the public has to say. There are lots of different options,” said Hawes.

A public 2015 budget consultation meeting is scheduled for March 17 at 7 p.m. at municipal hall.

Hawes wants to hear what the public expects from council.

While he understands some people would prefer no tax increase at all, Hawes doesn’t think that is the right choice.

“Zero tax increases are a nice thing to talk about but not a nice thing to live through.”

He explained a zero per cent increase may sound good at first, but to achieve it, jobs or programs may have to be cut.

“That’s not what this council is prepared to do.”

Council is looking at spending an additional $826,731 in new options and spending packages. That includes $405,000 for three new RCMP officers, $132,000 for an assistant fire chief and emergency planning, $15,000 for fire training, $67,000 for parks staffing and several other costs.

However, the net impact of this new spending is only $181,122.

Kris Boland, Mission’s manager of finance explained that before council looked at the new spending packages, they were already at a $645,609 decrease in the budget.

“They started off with a negative number.”

The bulk of that money became available after council chose to eliminate a half a million dollar transfer to the debt retirement reserve fund.

By eliminating some of the costs, the new spending packages only creates a $181,122 increase (0.65 per cent) from last year’s budget.

If the increase stays at that level the average home in Mission with an estimated assessment of $390,500, would see an estimated $11.77 increase in property taxes.

If the increase hits the maximum of 2.5 per cent, that hike would be closer to $50 per average household.

Council has also suggested a two per cent increase in water and sewer utility user fees as well as a two per cent increase to the landfill tipping fees.

The district is accepting input via an online and paper survey, or by email at budget@mission.ca until 8 a.m. on Monday, March 23.

The survey can be found at mission.ca/budget, or picked up in-person at the public meeting or any time between March 13 and the 23 at Municipal Hall, the Leisure Centre, and the Mission library.

Council will review feedback and finalize the budget on March 30.