Council was encouraged to conduct its own analysis and consider hiring more firefighters by a couple members of the public who listened to a presentation on the proposed budget.
Mayor Ted Adlem said that will definitely not happen in 2013, which “disheartened” former councillor Paul Horn, who along with firefighter Norm MacLeod brought up the issue.
The previous council which supported the plan had put a lot of work and research into it, but it has since been continuously deferred because of funding, said Horn.
“Last year’s zero per cent and this year’s 1.49 per cent (tax increase) is admirable,” said Horn, but noted the number is simply holding the line for services, but the rest of the community is growing.
Adding another eight full-time firefighters will improve safety in the community, said MacLeod.
Other people that spoke at the budget input session asked about Mission’s forestry operations and whether or not the district would consider lowering user fees for seniors for parks and recreation.
CUPE local 1267 president and district employee Donna Lee Lakes noted the proposed 1.49 per cent increase to property taxes was not just to pay for CUPE wage increases, but also many other things across the board, such as RCMP contract and integrated teams, West Coast Express, economic development office, transit, snow removal, hydro rate increase and web streaming for council meetings.
“There is no one single area in the district’s operations solely responsible for next year’s proposed tax increase,” said Lake, who criticized council for attributing the increase to “cover CUPE union contract increases.”
“We are disappointed you would use the CUPE wage agreement as an example as to why a tax increase is needed when it’s apparent a tax increase is necessary to maintain and fund a number of district services.”
She suggested council clarify their position.
According to the proposed budget, wages for CUPE employees are only the second highest expenditure uptick at $396,045. The largest increase of $458,000 is going to the RCMP contract and integrated teams.
Mission’s deputy treasurer/collector Kerri Onken presented the budget to the public, which offered a 1.49 per cent increase to property taxes, plus a two per cent utilities hike.
The Fraser Valley Regional Library board is also proposing a 4.98 per cent tax increase, but council wants the board to review the number and come up with something lower, said Onken.
It is estimated the impact on the average assessed home in Mission ($391,000) will be $51.31.
The full budget report is available on the district’s website mission.ca. The public is asked to provide feedback on the proposed document by Nov. 16.
Council is expected to discuss the budget at its Nov. 19 meeting.