No one likes paying taxes, not even us. The good news is that the City of White Rock has made a concentrated effort to reduce spending in 2012 and keep property taxes in check with a proposed increase of only 2.5%.
If we didn't make this effort to cut costs, this year's tax increase could have been over 4%. We just weren't prepared to do that. Instead, staff proposed reductions to the budget totalling $360,000, lowering the increase to only 2.5%.
Even with these cuts, the City will maintain the same level of services, facilities and infrastructure that you've come to expect. Some services, such as protective services, will actually increase this year. For example, the 2012 – 2016 Financial Plan accommodates adding one more police officer to the White Rock detachment.
A large cost driver for property taxes in White Rock is garbage and recycling collection. More than 1%, or $200,000, of the 2.5% property tax increase is due to rising costs of solid waste collection. These costs are related to increased tipping fees combined with an ongoing effort to meet Metro Vancouver's mandated target of diverting 70% of solid waste from garbage to other program streams, such as organic waste and recycling. We are taking steps towards reducing as much of those costs as possible. For example, the City currently pays a tipping fee of $107 per tonne of garbage, while green waste costs $41.58 per tonne. The introduction of the Green Can program in 2011 was the first step towards reducing solid waste costs. We also need to work together to reduce banned items in the garbage and green waste. Electronics hidden in garbage cans or plastic bags in Green Cans result in regular fines.
It's important to note that White Rock's general property taxes include all solid waste costs, which are often charged as a separate utility fee in other municipalities. For example, a 2.9% tax increase at another municipality might actually be more when you factor in their separate 1% solid waste tax increase.
To show transparency of the solid waste program cost increases, this will be identified as a “Solid Waste Program Levy” on this year's tax notices.
We welcome you to learn more about your property taxes and the City's 2012 – 2016 Financial Plan. You can view agendas and minutes from the Finance and Audit Committee meetings and from City Council meetings online.