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Potential tax increase to cover rising policing costs

Construction is coming along at the Community Recreation Centre expansion to the Fitness/ Activity Centre. The district
Construction is coming along at the Community Recreation Centre expansion to the Fitness/ Activity Centre. The district's director of financial services said the 3.25% increase in taxes is not a result of the expansion project.
— image credit: Jessica Peters/ Observer

This year's budget was presented to Kent council on Monday night, and it shows a tax increase of 3.25 per cent.

The addition of a new police officer accounts for at least part of the increase, bringing the local force from five officers to six. The District is budgeting $1,046,235 for policing, a $210,200 increase from last year's budget. Of that increase, about half is to cover the municipal portion for the additional police officer.

In total, policing is responsible for a 3.75 per cent increase to taxes.

However, that percentage is lowered slightly, by .5 per cent, through a drop in operating and capital expenses, bringing the total tax increase to 3.25 per cent.

While the budget presentation was made this week, council will now have three readings of the financial bylaw, and three readings of the tax rate bylaw. Judy Lewis, director of financial services, said they're hoping to adopt the budget at the Apr. 28 council meeting.

"Basically it's all RCMP costs because in other parts of the budget we were able to save," Mayor John Van Laerhoven said.

He said despite the rising costs of the RCMP, the community is getting good value from its local police force.

"We really value what the police do here for us," he said.

The budget also shows a few ways the District has saved a bit of money. Debt servicing for the library building has been paid off now, and the costs of administration for the regional library system went down thanks to a realignment of what FVRL communities pay.

A change in how the Chilliwack-Agassiz transit system is funded has also helped decrease costs.

Those decreases, plus fundraising efforts and grant acquisition, have helped keep the costs of building the Community Recreation Centre from your tax bill.

Despite the presented raise in taxes, the District of Kent is still on the lowest end of all lower mainland and Fraser Valley communities for taxes and charges. Using a scale that compares the tax bill for a representative house in 27 communities, Kent was at the bottom with $2,843 in 2013, with a representative house value of $296,319.

A representative house in Harrison Hot Springs last year was worth $318,455, placing them fourth lowest $3,420 in annual tax costs.

Municipalities collect taxes for local government, but also for the school district, regional district, hospital and others. In Kent last year, the portion of municipal taxes on a representative house was $1,149, less than half the total collected.

"You want to keep the costs down but you also realize the District is there to provide services to its citizens," Van Laerhoven said. "You can't go year after year after year without keeping up with the costs that are out there."

Items budgeted in for this year include the renovations to the municipal hall, $28,290 in grants to local groups, $187,000 in equipment for public works, street construction on Cameron Road, $140,300 in sewer upgrades, and 20 km of ditch cleaning — twice the amount of cleaning completed last year.

The average assessed value of homes in the District of Kent is $280,039, and there are 2,706 folios on the tax roll.

The district expects to collect $13,915,130 in revenue, with $5,308,440 from property taxes. Total expenditures listed on the 2014 budget total $14,636,521.

news@ahobserver.com

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