Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Overview of Langley City’s proposed 2021 budget: Maintaining status-quo service, investing in bringing SkyTrain to Langley.

Yesterday afternoon, Langley City staff presented the proposed 2021 budget for our municipality. I will be reviewing the proposed budget this week.

The budget consists of two major components, the operating budget and the capital budget. The operating budget includes all the costs to keep a municipality running on a day-to-day basis. The capital budget consists of projects and initiatives that do not occur annually or that create or significantly improve a real thing.

For example, street sweeping, maintaining traffic lights and filling in potholes are funded out of the operating budget. Repaving a section of a road or replacing a traffic light is funded out of the capital budget.

In 2021, Langley City staff and council are proposing a $48.3 million operating budget and $18.8 million capital budget.

COVID-19 and the instability that it has created is impacting the 2021 budget. Given this instability, staff and council are not proposing any service-level improvement this year, such as enhanced street cleaning or additional bylaw officers.

The largest component of the City budget is labour costs. Even with no service-level improvements, collective agreements mean that labour costs are increasing in 2021.

Policing costs are increasing from $12.8 million to $13.5 million, or $700,000 in 2021.

Other employment wages and benefits, including firefighters, are increasing from $15.2 million to $15.4 million, or $200,000.

For transparency, overall council remuneration is increasing by $15,780 in 2021.

The Fraser Valley Regional Library levy is increasing by $25,060. Brydon Park maintenance is growing by $15,000 due to its recent expansion, and other supplies and contracted services are increasing by $31,425.

These increased costs mean that property taxes will be rising by 2.75% to maintain the current level of services for Langley City residents and businesses.

In 2020, council was proposing to borrow $50 million to support the Nexus Vision and SkyTrain to Langley. $31 million was earmarked for strategic land acquisition to support the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain project. This project will create new economic opportunities for residents and businesses in our community. Council paused this plan in 2020, and the borrowing did not occur.

During the recent provincial election, one of the major campaign promises was to build SkyTrain to Langley. The provincial government is committed to getting this project done, which means the City still needs to acquire land to support it. Council is proposing to borrow a scaled-back $7.5 million in 2021 to support strategic land acquisition. This borrowing will be paid back over 15 years, resulting in a one-time 1.93% tax increase.

All in, Langley City council is proposing a 4.68% increase in property tax. On average, a single-family homeowner will see the City-controlled portion of their property tax increase by $154. A strata homeowner will see the City-controlled part of their property tax increase by $90.

1 comment:

Albert said...

The SkyTrain extension to Langley is far from certain despite the election campaign rhetoric. Campaign promises are nothing more than an intent and not confirmed policy with funding committed. It follows that the City of Langley should refrain from capital project expenses on this file till the provincial government AND the federal government are committing their share of the costs. For the City of Langley to borrow in these uncertain Covid times is just so unwise. Every property owner will experience the capital project's share of the tax increase as an attack on their personal tight budget. A 4.68% increase on top of the previous increases is to tax payers real money not just some number. SkyTrain-related expenditures are for the moment a bridge too far for us Langley City taxpayers.