A response from the City of New Westminster Finance Department

Thank you to all the community members who participated in the 2022 Budget Engagement and provided feedback to the City of New Westminster through the community survey, advisory committee workshops, and through the most recent request for public comments on the final draft.

On January 10, 2022, this most recent feedback of 19 comments, was brought to Council along with the 2022 Budget and 5 Year Financial Plan Bylaw for three readings. The 2022 Budget & 5 Year Financial Plan Bylaw builds on the public engagement results from the last two budget processes, continues to deliver on Council’s priorities and the City’s core services, while addressing the implications of emerging needs such as the COVID-19 pandemic and recent extreme weather events.

These recent comments were the final opportunity for public feedback before approval of the budget, and we appreciate the input we received prior to this Council meeting. Like all feedback from our community, these comments matter and we would like to take the time to share some of the actions that City is or has been taking to address the comments related to the property tax rate increase for 2022 (4.4%).

Increases in the City’s insurance costs represent 1.6% of the overall tax increase. The remaining 2.8% increase is necessary to continue delivering on critical core services, Council priorities, pandemic response and other emergencies such as extreme weather events.

We started the budget process early in the year so we could deliberate with Council on strategies to continue to manage through the pandemic and deliver core services and Council priorities, while we face increasing costs to insurance and commodity prices.

City staff teams, departments and leaders worked hard to manage budget pressures, while investing in renewal and ongoing services. Some examples of these reductions and savings include:

  • New Westminster Police Department (NWPD) – increased grant funding from Provincial levels/other third parties
  • NWPD – reduced budget for School Liaison Officers
  • Canada Games Pool Closure– utilized some of the savings to re-distribute fitness services across the city, and support other one-time service enhancements
  • Seeking grant funding for affordable housing projects and through developer contributions/amenities; none of the property tax increase for 2022 is related to affordable housing
  • Efforts to offset cost increases - applying for Provincial grant funds to support with COVID-19 impacts, deferring or reducing scope in major capital program spending until grants and or financial risk had been sustained, along with looking for opportunities across all city spends such as training, supplies, software and license fees and other variable program spends.
  • Received Provincial and Translink grant funding, along with developer support for climate action work, such as sustainable transportation, investments in biodiversity, etc.

As for the comment regarding less tax for Queensborough (QB) residents, similar to less cost to buy a house in QB, this is not within the City’s control. The Province, through BC Assessment, determines residential property values based on recent market sales activity in the area. The market determines the value of the house and then BC Assessment uses that market value as the input to assessed values which is the tool used to distribute or allocate taxes. Therefore, it safe to say that the market activity in some areas of New Westminster will naturally impact the net increase or decrease of property taxes per household due to the value of where their property is located within the city.

Looking to the future Council has directed staff in 2022 to explore ways to reduce insurance costs, and to complete an operational review of police services.

Again, we value all community feedback and ideas. We encourage you to continue to share your input.

Categories: Budget2022
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