The District of Kent has approved a 3.25 per cent tax increase for homeowners in the community.
On Monday, Feb. 22, the District of Kent a special open meeting over Microsoft Teams for community members to provide comments on the district’s 2021-2025 financial plan, although few comments were shared. Director of financial services Mike Veenbaas shared a presentation on the district’s financial plan, which is also available in video form on Kent’s website.
The district is expecting to spend nearly $10.3 million in 2021, including $1.5 million for parks and recreation, $1.5 million for $1.5 million for engineering, $1.2 million for policing and $2.5 million for general government services.
The main increases to the budget come from operating costs for general government services and policing, with increasing wages, vehicle maintenance, electricity costs and other related costs. The district is also planning to increase its contributions to its capital reserve, to fund infrastructure projects.
The increased funds for policing would also go to cover potential costs coming from a new union contract for the RCMP.
About $60,000 of the increase is expected to be covered by growth in the community, and the remaining $225,000 shortfall will be covered by property tax increases.
The 3.25 per cent property tax increase is on par with what the district has put forward in previous years.
Council spoke favourably about the proposed increase during the special open meeting.
“We do pride ourselves in being frugal with tax dollars, but we also pride ourselves in trying to respond to requests from the public for amenities,” Mayor Sylvia Pranger said. “This budget provides that balance.”
Both Coun. Stan Watchorn and Coun. Susan Spaeti agreed.
“It is a tough year for everybody, but if we do a little bit, then it’s not such as big hit as it would be if we did nothing” and had significant increases next year, Spaeti said.
User rates for water and sewer will also be increasing two per cent in 2021, as was already approved in 2020 through the district bylaw. There is no increase for drainage levies this year, and 12 kilometres of waterways are expected to be dredged this year.
The district has several large projects in the works. One is a new Agassiz Slough flood box, which is expected to cost $1.4 million. The district is actively looking for grant funding to support the flood box project.
The district is also hoping to spend $1.1 million to expand its water system — although this expense would be dependent on grants. Other grant-dependent projects included in the plan are the indoor aquatic centre, which the district is hoping to receive a planned $11.8 million grant to support for 2022 and 2023.
During the regular council meeting later Monday night, council gave three readings to the financial plan bylaw.