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New West budget passes, but two councillors vote no over police increase

What's happening at city hall
New Westminster city council has given three readings to bylaws related to the 2022 budget, and all that's left is adoption of the bylaws.

The City of New Westminster’s 2022 budget has received approval from the majority of city council.

At Monday’s meeting, council received a report about the 2022 to 2026 financial plan. Councillors Mary Trentadue and Nadine Nakagawa voted against a staff recommendation to give three readings to the five-year-financial plan bylaw, having previously expressed concern that the budget includes an increase to the police department’s budget.

The city’s five-year financial plan includes a property tax increase of 4.4% and a $170.1-million capital budget for 2022.

“The 2022 budget and five-year financial plan bylaw builds upon the 2021 public engagement results and continues to deliver on council 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,” said Harji Varn, the city’s finance director.

A report to council said the financial plan has been prepared based on the city’s financial policies and budget principles, which strive to find a balance between affordability and providing resources to service a growing community for the long-term. It said the plan advances council’s strategic priorities and the city’s Seven Bold Steps for climate action, while staff continues to maintain core services and manage through the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Varn said the city received 19 comments during the final engagement opportunity of the budget, with three supporting the budget and the others expressing concerns about aspects of the budget and/or the proposed tax rate increase.

“These comments matter, and staff will seek to respond to each comment,” she said. “It should be noted that when we add these 19 comments to the other 1,600-plus comments, these comments are not representing the general consensus, where the majority were comfortable with a tax rate increase of between 2% and 5%.”

Later in the Jan. 10 meeting, council approved the city’s consolidated financial plan for 2022 to 2026. Trentadue voted against the motion.