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Richmond facing 5.68 per cent tax hike

By Don Fennell

Published 4:42 PST, Tue January 19, 2021

Last Updated: 4:53 PST, Tue January 19, 2021

Richmond has a reputation for being one of the safest cities in the region. But while it enjoys a very low crime rate, a moderate increase in the last few years, coupled with a recent rash of incidents, has raised concerns.

Recognizing public safety as a top priority, and committed to eradicating crime wherever possible, city councillors (sitting as finance committee on Monday) voted in favour of a 2021 operating budget that provides for the hiring of an additional 16 RCMP police officers. The proposed budget, which still requires final approval, represents a 5.68 per cent tax increase for 2021.

“I’ve always tried to keep taxes down (but) we need to look at safety first,” said Coun. Bill McNulty, who put the third option on the table after staff recommended a same-service increase of 2.90 per cent.

“(During the COVID-19 pandemic) we’ve had shootings, drive-bys, arsons, all kinds of issues we haven’t faced before in Richmond,” he said. “An $82 increase (per average household with an assessed value of $996,000) as opposed to a $51 increase can mean the difference between safety in our community and not being safe. We need to have every officer that we can on the street.”

But McNulty, noting that Richmond already has to lowest number of police officers per capita in Canada, also stressed that there’s no certainty Richmond will get all the additional officers it is hoping for. 

“We’re lucky to get RCMP officers, with the rest of Canada asking for officers too. We need to put our oar in the water now—we’re not going to see an officer for 14 to 24 months anyhow.”

On April 14, 2020, in response to the pandemic and uncertainty around collecting property taxes, council approved a 2.01 per cent reduction to the 2020 property tax increase that had been approved Dec. 9, 2019 by eliminating the additional one per cent transfer to reserve. As a result, that deferred the hiring of 12 RCMP officers and five municipal employees to support the RCMP detachment, as well as the city Centre North Community Centre operating budget phase-in, and the operating budget impact from the 2020 capital budget.

The 2021 proposed budget also accounts for 11 new municipal workers to support the RCMP detachment, as well as 12 additional firefighters.

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