Mission homeowners can expect to see a 1.49 per increase in their property taxes next year, but the district still won’t see any additional firefighters in the $59-million budget.
The 2013 financial plan will include a two per cent increase in water, sewer, garbage, recycling and composting rates.
The finance plan will also pay off a $5.7-million debt over the next two years, rather than continue paying the loans until 2024, which will save Mission $4.5 million in interest costs over the next decade.
Generally funds are borrowed over a 20-year period, with early payment opportunities at year 10, said manager of finance Kris Boland. Four loans come into that 10-year window over the next two years, he said. They’ll be paid off from district reserves including reserves for water and sewer.
“As a result, the water utility will become debt-free in 2014, and sewer will be debt-free in 2016, rather than in 2024,” said Boland.
This will represent a 35 per cent reduction of Mission’s current debt, which will be $16.2 million at the end of this year, and that will free up dollars to pay for needed repairs and maintenance of buildings and byways.
“We’re about $20 million behind in infrastructure repair, mostly for upgrading and maintenance of roads,” said Coun. Tony Luck, the chairman of the finance committee.
The district wants to be ready for future capital costs, or other initiatives such as revitalizing the downtown core next year. The low tax increase comes after a zero tax rise in this council’s inaugural 2012 March budget.
The 2013 tax hike covers pay increases to meet Canadian Union of Public Employees contract obligations. Mission Fire Rescue did request a budget increase of $1 million to hire eight more career firefighters three budgets ago, but that alone would have boosted the tax levy by five per cent, said Luck last week.
“We reassessed the need and we’re not going to hire more firefighters. We looked at the fire safety statistics, they’re good and we haven’t lost lives,” he said. “Between our fulltime firefighters and volunteers . . . they do a pretty good job.”
At city hall, the district reduced 6.3 positions through attrition to save $600,000, while remaining staffers have taken on a wider range of tasks. Further internal efficiencies of $409,000 were found through a detailed review of department expenditures this year.
“We’ve got to do more with less, but we’ve had no complaints about services to the public,” Luck said.
“I think expectations have decreased a bit, they understand we’re in tough times.”
However, the district will hire two positions at a total cost of $219,000 to fill key roles: a manager of citizen engagement and corporate initiatives, and a manager of infrastructure and assets.
The 2013 budget was up for first to third readings on Monday (Dec. 3), and is expected to be passed by the council at the Dec. 17 public meeting. See www.mission.ca.