Policing and the associated cost of adding three new RCMP officers was one of the main points of discussion at Tuesday night’s budget consultation meeting held in Mission council chambers.
A small crowd of about 25 people came out to hear the proposed 2015 budget – which currently includes a tax increase anywhere from 0.65 to 2.5 per cent – and ask questions of councillors and staff.
“I think it is possible for council to live within their means without having to raise current taxes,” said William Vroom.
He indicated he was in favour of increasing the number of RCMP officers, but felt adding one would be sufficient.
Others felt no increase was needed.
“They’ll need as much money as you’re willing to feed them,” said former Mission councillor Jeff Jewell, adding that the previous council challenged the RCMP to work with the staff it had.
“There is no amount of money you can throw at crime prevention to make it go away,” added Jewell.
He also noted that these are still “very distressed” economic times and it is not the time for “visionary expenditures.”
Mission Mayor Randy Hawes said the district hasn’t hired one policeman in over 10 years and stood by the decision to add more officers.
The new Mounties will cost the city approximately $405,000.
Other issues raised by the public included the need for a proposed discretionary fund (about $500,000) for unforeseen budget issues, the hiring of a part-time employee during tax season, the need to invest $200,000 for a new skate park and the hiring of a second assistant fire chief.
Council will now review the public comments and those made on the online survey (at mission.ca/budget) before attempting to finalize the budget.
“There is almost certainly going to be some more things that are going to be put in the budget so I’m suspecting the final tax rate is going to be somewhere between 2.5 and 0.65 per cent. But where it lands is frankly up to you,” Hawes told the crowd.
If council does allow a 2.5 per cent tax hike, it will cost the average homeowner about $45 more each year.