With the biggest tax increase that Terrace has ever seen, city staff came ready to answer questions at the Terrace Sportsplex Jan. 16 regarding their 2020 budget proposal.
Instead, rows of empty chairs lined the banquet room as only one Terrace resident showed up to the city’s annual public budget consultation meeting.
“It’s very frustrating for us with the struggles that we have, trying to put a budget together knowing that there are so many needs and wants and you can’t address everything but then people in the community don’t show up,” says City of Terrace mayor Carol Leclerc.
“To me that says that they are either trusting the people that they elected or maybe they feel that their input wouldn’t be considered.”
With recent property assessments up to an average 20 per cent and the city poised to raise taxes by 7.4 per cent, the city was met with a lot of critical feedback as residents questioned their first draft of the 2020 budget proposal introduced on Dec. 17.
Leclerc says this is a changing time for Terrace as industry picks up in the region and the population increases, bringing a lot of issues that need to be addressed.
So far, the city is saying the tax increase amounts to $120 a year for the average city residential taxpayer.
“We weren’t feeling very good about [this tax increase], and there’s a lot of social issues happening in our town that we’re responding to by asking for extra staff, like RCMP with bylaw officers. Our firefighters are also being called out significantly more than they were years ago,” says Leclerc. “You have to put these bodies out there and that means tax increase.”
Members of Terrace Fire Department and Terrace RCMP also attended the Jan. 16 meeting, prepared to justify their need for extra staff.
City staff requests include $41,488 for a part-time bylaw admin clerk, adjustments for a new engineering manager position at public works, along with expected increases in project management costs at the Skeena Industrial Development Park, $89,829 for a new parks supervisor position, $121,884 to hire an additional full-time bylaw officer and a pilot project for 2020 for two additional summer seasonal bylaw officers to focus on the downtown area.
The fire department’s two additional firefighters would cost $280,904 to absorb an additional workload, including building fire-safety inspections.
The additional staffing costs amount to $770,000, or approximately three-quarters of the proposed tax increase with the rest going to cover increased operational costs.
Other increases include an additional $54,000 to purchase a new bus from B.C. Transit, along with giving the Terrace Public Library a two per cent bump.
In all, the proposed city budget would rise from $20.4 million to $21.9 million, with 20 per cent going toward policing costs.
But in order to help pay for these costs, the City of Terrace will eliminate the hanging flower baskets which cost taxpayers $85,550 in the previous budget year.
“The other comments that came [from residents] were regarding the flower baskets and people were wanting us to keep the baskets but they just became so cost-prohibitive, that’s why we got rid of it — it was a sticker shock for us,” Leclerc says, adding the price had doubled since 2018.
“We’re trying to figure out how we can do something to make sure that we provide something to enhance our city because the flower baskets were absolutely amazing… but this cost just went through the roof.”
Although they were hoping to hear from the public directly, Leclerc says residents can still address their concerns by contacting them directly via email or calling city hall.
Council will be making their provisional budget decision on Jan. 27.
All B.C. municipalities must submit their final budget by May. 15.
Terrace residents can then look forward to receiving their tax notices with payments due at the beginning of July.