Richmond eyes big building plan

Property taxes will climb 2.96 per cent and bureaucrats will manage one of the priciest lists of projects in Richmond's history, if city council approves the 2014 budgets being presented today.

Civic politicians are expected to vote on the 2014 operating budget and $185.9-million capital budget at a finance committee meeting late Monday.

If endorsed, council ratification votes later this month would make the budgets official.

Most of the city's massive capital budget, $120.1 million, is eaten up by a trio of projects approved by council a month ago: a new pool, seniors centre and fire hall in Minoru Park.

A further $32.1 million is earmarked for infrastructure upgrades, including road repaving, drainage projects and water mains.

Other costs include $8.1 million for equipment--including computer software and new vehicles--$6.6 million for park upgrades and $5 million for land acquisition.

By comparison, the 2013 capital budget totalled just  $68.6 million--approximately one-third the cost of the latest proposed budget.

To balance the $317.2-million operating budget for 2014, city staff contend taxes have to rise for homeowners. But in a report from the city’s acting manager of financial planning, Richmond's average tax increase over the past five years "remains comparable to other cities in Metro Vancouver."

"The 2014 operating budget is expected to maintain this record of providing sound value to local taxpayers," noted Melissa Shiau.

The tax hike for 2013 was 2.98 per cent.

In 2014, costs will rise for budget staples such as policing and road repaving, staff say. Salaries are also driving up costs. Unionized workers are receiving a 1.75 per cent raise this year as per their collective agreement.

One new police officer is also included in the proposed budget. The officer would be assigned to the Richmond RCMP's Quick Response Team, which focuses on prolific offenders and crime trends.

Tax collected from one per cent of the increase will be added to the city's reserve account--money earmarked for infrastructure replacement.


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