The average Richmond homeowner will pay about $94 more in taxes this year.
City council has approved an operating budget increase for 2019 of 4.82 per cent. This follows several amendments on an initial recommendation of 6.82 per cent.
The biggest factor, accounting for 61 per cent of the increase, is to cover the costs associated with the hiring of an additional 107 policing and fire personnel as part of Richmond’s 2019 Operating Budget and 5-Year Financial Plan (2019-2023).
The additional staff are part of council’s Safe Community Program and is based on the recommendations from the Richmond RCMP and Richmond Fire-Rescue to ensure adequate staffing is in place to address continue growth in the city.
Based on population, Richmond has fewer police officers than neighbouring communities. The current ratio is one police officer to 970 people. Municipal police statistics from 2015 showed Richmond has the lowest RCMP cost per capita.
The recent Richmond Fire-Rescue update identified that due to projected community growth over the next 10 years, a rescue company of 12 firefighters will be needed in the Steveston area. As well, in order to maintain current service levels, an engine company of 24 firefighters is needed for the city centre.
To address the safety staffing needs, the 2019 budget and 5-Year Financial Plan provides for ongoing operating costs of 51 more police officers and 20 municipal employees at the RCMP detachment over the next three years and ongoing operating costs for 36 more firefighters to be hired over the next three years. The proposed budget also includes about $3 million in additional spending required to cover costs passed on by senior levels of government, including the new provincial Employer Health Tax. This is equal to a 1.38 per cent tax increase.
The budget was approved at
council’s Feb. 11 meeting, with Couns. Chak Au, Carol Day, Kelly Green and
Michael Wolfe voting in opposition. Day said she thought more fiscal cuts could
be made, while Green said using a large amount of rate stabilization “just
means we’re deferring the tax increase from one year to the next.”