Tax increases for 2021 in Richmond will be on the agenda at next week’s finance committee meeting.
City staff have come up with three different scenarios for next year’s budget with increases proposed at 7.69 per cent, 5.07 per cent and 3.74 per cent.
Lowering taxes, though, will mean not funding more police officers and fire fighters, cutting further into the three-year plan to increase the community safety budget from 2019 to 2021.
When the pandemic hit in spring, council cut its budget by about two per cent and deferred hiring new police officers.
With a 7.69 per cent increase in taxes, the city could fund new RCMP officers as well as 12 new firefighters in 2021 – this would add $5.7 million to the city’s budget.
The second scenario envisions raising taxes by 5.07 per cent, upping the number of police officers (and municipal staff to support them) in 2021 and 2022 but deferring new firefighters until 2022.
The third scenario, with a tax increase of 3.74 per cent, would defer new RCMP officers to 2022-24 and new firefighters to 2025-26.
Staff note in the report to council that the consequence of cancelling the one-per-cent transfer to reserves this year and a reduction in gaming revenue – because of the closure of River Rock Casino - has resulted in $8.6 million less going into reserves and capital projects.
All three proposed taxation scenarios include one per cent of the budget going to reserves, but that won’t fully make up for reduced contributions to reserves in 2020.
This could have an impact on the timing of future capital projects.
Big projects in the works for the next few years include replacing the animal shelter, the lawn bowling club, the Phoenix Net Loft, the Steveston Community Centre and library and the Hugh Boyd field house.
The preliminary operating budget report is just for council’s information, and the capital and operating budgets will come back in February with public consultation after that.
The finance committee meeting is on Monday afternoon (following the general purposes meeting).