City Plans for Zero Tax Increase and Extends Payment Deadlines

PORT COQUITLAM, BC – Apr. 8, 2020…Port Coquitlam plans to reduce its proposed 2020 budget increase to zero and extend tax and utility payment deadlines to Sept. 2 to help residents and businesses struggling to pay their bills during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last night, Council agreed to eliminate this year’s proposed tax increase – originally 0.48 per cent for the average home assessed at $735,185  – while giving property owners until Sept. 2 to pay their 2020 taxes and utilities, and waiving fees for non-sufficient funds. Measures to ensure cash-flow for the city were also given the go-ahead.

“As a city, our economic approach during the pandemic is twofold – reduce costs where possible, while continuing to provide as many services as possible to support residents and  businesses,” Mayor Brad West said. “We know many residents and businesses are experiencing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 crisis, and every dollar counts. They’re having to tighten their belts, and the city is going to do the same to support them.”

The city will continue to concentrate on delivering core municipal services and seek efficiencies and savings wherever possible. To balance the budget, the city will reduce non-essential spending and place a hold on external hiring except for critical positions.

“Rigorous financial decision-making is not new for us.  We have a history of low tax increases made possible by an ongoing focus on getting the basics right – providing the core services the community relies on,” Mayor West said. “It’s because of this approach that we’re able to step up and offer some relief to the community during this difficult time.”

The city is also putting a cash-flow backup plan in place, given that taxes and utilities make up 85 per cent of the city’s revenue. To help the city meet its obligations, Council plans to approve a revenue anticipation borrowing bylaw to help bridge the gap between the regular payment deadlines (Mar. 31 for utilities and July 2 for taxes) and the new Sept. 2 deadline. The usual late payment penalty would not apply until after Sept. 2. Adoption of the appropriate bylaws will be brought forward to a future Council meeting.

The City will continue to monitor any further support that may be on the way from various provincial and federal initiatives and adjust plans if required. Port Coquitlam and other B.C. cities have been lobbying the provincial government to expand the property tax deferment program and standardize extended tax deadlines.  

“We’re encouraged at the measures senior levels of government have made to date, and we’re looking forward to seeing more support for our community and will adjust our actions accordingly,” Mayor West noted. “For now we feel it’s important to alleviate the pressure our residents and businesses are feeling about the fast approaching deadlines.”

Council has also reviewed the feedback received in February during the public consultation for the previous proposed budget. The feedback will help inform Council decisions throughout the year and the planning for the 2021 budget this fall.

Budget Impact

Budgeted activities planned for 2020 continue to be centred around Council’s priorities for 2020-2022: improving customer service, investing in infrastructure and enhancing community safety. Despite eliminating the tax increase, service enhancements for 2020 will include additional bylaw enforcement officers, department restructure to focus on community safety, strategic project management, enhanced emergency medical response training for firefighters and year-round weekly organics collection, which the City started earlier than planned last month. These initiatives will be funded in 2020 from reserve funds, with ongoing funding for these initiatives in 2021. 

Given that construction has been considered an essential service, the city’s $24.4 million capital program for 2020 – funded through various reserve accounts and interest savings – will proceed as planned. The work includes continuing construction of the Port Coquitlam Community Centre, a variety of pedestrian safety and traffic calming projects, and over 10 kilometres of road improvements along with lane paving, sidewalks, curbs and gutters, and related utility upgrades.

Strict provisions are in place to ensure workers are following all public health requirements, which differ slightly for construction sites and essential services than those for the public. The city is closely monitoring updates provided by health authorities and will take any necessary action directed by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

“These projects are critical to ensuring we can continue to provide the services our residents depend on each day,” Mayor West said. “But rest assured, the health and safety of our staff and the public remains our top priority.”

Taxpayer Impact

Based on the revised draft budget, the average residential property assessed at $735,185 will see no increase in their tax bill from last year. However, the amount paid by each property will depend on how it compares to the average residential assessment ($735,185), along with how much its assessed value changed from the previous year.

Property assessments decreased an average of 8.97 per cent overall for Port Coquitlam residential properties from 2019. That means properties assessed at $735,185 whose assessment decreased by 8.97 per cent or more will see their taxes stay the same or go down, while those with a smaller assessment decrease will see a tax increase. Changes to the assessed value can be found on the assessment notices mailed out at the beginning of the year.

The average business was already going to see a tax decrease from the city’s draft financial plan, and all businesses will benefit from the provincial government’s 50 per cent reduction in school taxes for 2020, amounting to about a 15 per cent savings for the average business.

With the budget change, the average business will see a 0.59% decrease and light industry will see a 3.33% decrease.

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Pardeep Purewal
Manager of Communications & Admin Services
City of Port Coquitlam
Tel 604.927.5335 Cel 604.218.0533