Thursday, January 29, 2015

Kinder Morgan and National Energy Board Ignore Township's Concerns

Kinder Morgan has been working towards twinning its Trans Mountain Pipeline through BC. This proposed twinning has been highly controversial.

The Trans Mountain Pipeline goes right through Langley, and right under the highly populated community of Walnut Grove.

Kinder Morgan Proposed Pipeline and Township of Langley Affected Properties. Select map to enlarge.

The Township of Langley has concerns about the pipeline expansion as it will go through the community, and last year submitted various questions around 19 different areas of concern to the National Energy Board. The National Energy Board (NEB) will decided if the pipeline expansion can move forward.

The NEB only required Kinder Morgan to answer a few questions in one area of concern, emergency response around the proposed pipeline expansion. The NEB has repeatedly denied requests by the Township and others to get Kinder Morgan to answer further questions or address other areas of concern.

According to a recent Township of Langley staff report “the answers received from KMC during Round 1 Information phase of NEB’s intervenor process have not been satisfactory and the Township’s questions and concerns have not been fully addressed to date.”

A round 2 of information request to the NEB around the Trans Mountain Pipeline is about to begin. The Township of Langley plans to ask more questions, similar to the questions asked previously. Will the Township get a better response than last time? I wouldn’t hold my breath.

In the meantime, the public can email their questions and concerns to the Township of Langley at publicinput@tol.ca

On July 29th, the NEB will reveal if the pipeline expansion is approved.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Per capita policing costs in the South of Fraser

This week, I have been posting about the City of Langley’s proposed 2015 budget. One of the things that I noted is that in the last few years, a larger percentage of the City’s operating budget has been allocated to policing services.

I wanted to see how Langley City compares to other municipalities in the South of Fraser. I used 2013 to compare, as this is the latest year where all municipalities have their financial information posted online. To help understand the numbers, I used a per capita amount based on the 2013 population for each municipality.

Per capita policing costs in 2013. Select graph to enlarge.

Delta is the only community with its own police service. Clearly this comes at a cost. All the other municipalities contract police services to the RCMP. This appears to be a better value.

It is clear that the City of Langley dedicates more financial resources to policing than any other RCMP-serviced municipality in the South of Fraser.

Sources:
Township of Langley
City of Langley
White Rock
Surrey
Delta

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

City of Langley proposed 2015 capital spending

Yesterday, I posted an overview of the City of Langley’s proposed 2015 budget. Today, I wanted to look at some of the major projects that the City is looking to fund this year.

The City has a policy of using the revenue it receives from the Cascades Casino to pay for major projects. Casino revenue accounts for 13.5% of the total revenue the City receives; a sizable amount. $4.4 million in casino revenue is being proposed to be allocated to major projects this year. The City plans to invest $8 million into projects in 2015.

The City has allocated $35,000 to start a Mental Illness, Addiction and Homeless Study. The outcome of the study will be to “recommend a service model and business plan that would provide better assistance to residents challenged with mental illness, addiction and/or homeless.” It is good that the City is planning to move forward with this study because, as I noted yesterday, policing costs have been rapidly increasing over the last decade. Hopefully the recommendations in this report will be acted on, leading to a healthier community while addressing the cost of policing services in the City.

The Langley Fire & Rescues Service will be getting a new $835,000 Pumper Truck if the City’s budget is approved.

The City of Langley is proposing to spend $3.5 million on improving streets and sidewalks this year. This includes $240,000 for a proposed 203rd Street bridge replacement, $200,000 to improve the rail crossing at 200th Street/Logan Avenue, and $800,000 to upgrade traffic lights in the community.

The City is also proposing to invest $815,000 to improve the public realm, focusing in Downtown Langley. This includes installing new street lights, upgrading the streetscape around City Hall, replacing trees, and preforming some small upgrades to Salt Lane.

Starting last year, the City started to invest in pedestrian facilities in the community. This year, the City is proposing to spend $100,000 on building new sidewalks and multi-use pathways. The City is also proposing to spend $80,000 on expanding the trail system throughout the parks system.

Every year, the City includes a line item for improving bicycle facilities. Every year, the funding for bicycling faculties, which includes building new bike lanes, gets deferred to a future year. It’s really depressing. I’m starting to wonder why the City even includes cycling in their capital projects plan.

The City is planing to spend $500,000 this year to repair roads in the community. This includes repaving sections of 51A Avenue, 53A Avenue, 200 Street, 201A Street, and 203 Street.

With the new Timms Community Centre under construction, the City is proposing to allocate $480,000 for new equipment in the facility. The library may also get a $200,000 upgrade with a new book sorter.

One of the exciting proposed new projects in Downtown Langley will be the programming of events throughout the year, in partnership with the Downtown Langley BIA, in McBurney Lane. The City is proposing to invest $20,000 into this project. I look forward to seeing McBurney Lane become a gather place for the community.

The City is also proposing to invest $905,000 into the sewer and storm water system, and $784,000 into the water system in 2015, to keep them in a state of good repair.

Monday, January 26, 2015

City of Langley proposed 2015 budget and property tax changes

As we approach February, the City of Langley is putting the finishing touches on its proposed 2015-2019 financial plan. This plan directs municipal spending in the current year, and gives a rough idea of projected revenue and expenditures in the future.

The City of Langley will be hosting an open house on Wednesday, February 4th from 3:30pm to 7:00pm at the Douglas Recreation Centre. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns about the budget, this is an excellent opportunity to express your thoughts to City staff.

Police expenditures are the single largest expense in the City of Langley. The increase in policing costs over the latest several years has been rapid, outpacing other expenditures in the City. In 2013, the City spent $9.2 million on policing which represented 23% of overall expenditures. The City is proposing to spend $10.6 million on policing servings this year, representing 26% of overall expenditures. The proposed budget includes hiring additional RCMP members.

The increased cost of policing leaves less financial resources available for other priorities in the City.

While the City of Langley is an urban core with serious issues that result from poverty, it may be time for the City to explore other ways of dealing with the root causes of social issues and crime in our community. Adding more police is not sustainable. I’m concerned that policing is taking an ever increasing piece of the budget pie in our community.

While most municipal expenditures have increased year-over-year, the City is proposing to reduce spending on Development Services from $927,000 in 2014 to $911,595 in 2015.

The largest reduction in spending in the City of Langley is on solid waste. The solid waste budget has been reduced to $633,000 from $1 million in 2014. This is largely due to the transfer of recycling services to Multi-Material BC, the non-profit funded by businesses that create packaging and paper waste.

Overall City budgeted expenditures are increasing from $39.04 million in 2014 to $39.98 million in 2015.

With the changes in assessed property values in Langley, combined with the proposed 2015 budget, average property tax will decrease by $22 for multi-family homeowners while it will increase by $92 for single-family homeowners. The average multi-family homeowner will pay $779 in property tax while the average single-family homeowner will pay $1,889 in property tax. This might seem unfair, but under BC law, all residential property must be treated equally.

Over the last several years, the City of Langley has been adjusting the ratio of tax paid by residential and business property owners. In 2013, 53.2% of property tax came from residential property owners. In 2015, 51.1% of property tax is proposed to come from residential property owners.

With this adjustment, changes in assessed property values, and proposed 2015 budget, the average business property owner will pay $16,918 in property tax. This is an increase of $570 over 2014.

As business owners renew their leases with business property owners, business property owners may adjust leasing rates, factoring in property tax increases.