New Westminster city council is contemplating a tax hike of up to two per cent in 2013.
The City of New Westminster's proposed base budget for 2013 is calling for a zero per cent tax rate increase, but a tax increase would be required if council chooses to approve some suggested "priority" initiatives.
These items include a dog licence canvassing program by the animal services division, resources needed to prepare and plan for the 2014 opening of Anvil Centre, additional cleaning staff for the police station, a public art coordinator, a mayor and council coordinator, and new positions for the police department, including members specializing in forensics and mental health.
"I would think that is the high side," said Mayor Wayne Wright about a two per cent tax increase. "I am hoping to keep it as low as possible."
According to the staff report, a strata property assessed at $306,000 would see an annual increase of $10 with a one per cent increase or $20 with a two per cent increase, as well as a $33 increase in utility fees; a single-family dwelling assessed at $696,000 would see a $24 increase with a one per cent tax increase, or a $48 increase with a two per cent increase, and utility increases of $68; and a single-family dwelling assessed at $1 million would see a $34 tax increase with a one per cent tax increase, a $69 tax increase with a two per cent increase, and utility fee increase of $68.
Following a presentation by finance director Gary Holowatiuk at Monday afternoon's working session, council discussed the budget.
Coun. Betty McIntosh said no decisions were made about the budget and the discussion will continue at a future meeting.
"It is still in discussion," she said. "We are going to come back item by item by item. We started but time got too short."
Council members will email questions to Holowatiuk, who will report back to council at an upcoming meeting. Several of the priority items include staffing resources to provide for additional staff who would canvass door-to-door to license dogs, oversee Anvil Centre and coordinate the city's public art policy.
"Labour is 66 per cent of our budget," Wright said. "If we are going to do something different, where do we want it to go?"
McIntosh said the new Anvil Centre will have operational requirements in terms of staffing once it opens, which will also impact future budgets.
"I don't think we can just look at this one year," she said. "Once the centre is open, not only are you going to have staff in place to do cleaning and administration, it is a whole new facility. That is one of the budget drivers for 2014."
Wright believes funding of Anvil Centre operations will be one of the most important decisions to be made by council. He said the city needs to ensure it doesn't try "to be bigger than we should be" from an operational point of view.