Port Moody reduces tax rate increase to 1.61% to ease burden on taxpayers during COVID-19 pandemic

To ease the financial burden faced by taxpayers during the COVID-19 pandemic, Port Moody City Council has made cuts to the 2020 Financial Plan that resulted in a reduced tax rate increase of 1.61 per cent, down from the previously-approved 3.62 per cent. “Thanks to the tireless work of Port Moody City staff, and a ‘can do’ attitude around the table Tuesday night, City Council carried a crisis-minded budget unanimously,” says Mayor Rob Vagramov. “I am pleased to announce that Port Moody residents will be seen through this crisis with the lowest tax rate increase in 21 years.” The 1.61 per cent increase over 2019 represents a 1.21 per cent increase to the City’s operating budget and a 0.4 per cent increase to the Asset Renewal Levy, which funds the replacement of existing critical infrastructure, amenities, and facilities. The average household will see an increase of about $35 for the year – that’s $2.92 per month, or $0.67 per week. The changes to the 2020 Financial Plan include reductions to:
  • the Asset Renewal Levy – a 0.4 per cent increase instead of one per cent;
  • the 2020 Community Grant Program – the City awarded $4,200 in grants to community groups instead of $18,700 (PoCoMo Meals on Wheels was awarded $1,200 to help cover the cost of food and supplies delivered to those in need, and SHARE Family and Community Services was awarded $3,000 to fill gaps in funding for 2020, mainly for SHARE’s English language practice groups and family resource programs);
  • vegetation maintenance on boulevards and roads, as well as the number of annuals (flowers) purchased;
  • monetary transfers to operating reserves;
  • funding to respond to liability claims;
  • funds set aside for Council and senior leadership to respond to emerging corporate and organizational issues;
  • financial support for City-run events such as the Port Moody Community Fair, Canada Day celebrations, and Car-Free Day; and
  • small amounts of discretionary funding. 
The changes to the 2020 Financial Plan do not include a reduction in staffing levels. However, temporary facility closures, cancelled programs and events, and reduced non-essential services due to COVID-19 have forced the City of Port Moody to lay off 370 casual and auxiliary employees on temporary basis. These layoffs are operational in nature, and were initiated by management, not City Council. These temporary layoffs are not a result of Council’s budget discussions, and do not affect the property tax rate for 2020. “The decision to reduce our staff temporarily was an extremely difficult one, and we’re saddened that this step has become necessary,” says City Manager Tim Savoie. “City of Port Moody employees are professional, hard-working, and committed to providing excellent customer service. It’s our hope that we’ll be able to welcome many of our employees back once normal City operations have resumed. “Until that time arrives,” continues Savoie, “we must focus on delivering our core services and following the Provincial Health Officer’s orders and recommendations to help slow down the spread of COVID-19.” Staff affected by the temporary layoffs work in the Community Services and Corporate Services departments, and for the Port Moody Public Library. Many of these employees work on call or limited hours in positions such as fitness and recreation instructors, administrative clerks, theatre technicians, events workers, librarians, and circulation assistants. Layoff notification was given on April 17, 2020 and employees will be paid up to April 30, 2020, based on average gross earnings during the last six pay periods. Twenty-two employees who received a layoff notice for a specific position still hold another position with the City. Prior to April 18, 2020, the City had 785 employees, including Port Moody Police, on its payroll. The City is continuously monitoring information about COVID-19 coming from public health authorities, and makes decisions about City services and facilities with the health and safety of its residents in mind. Visit portmoody.ca/covid19 to stay up-to-date on impacts to City services.Correction (April 23, 2020 at 2:37pm): An earlier version of this article quoted Mayor Vagramov incorrectly by leaving the word “increase” out of his statement. The statement has been corrected in the current version as follows: “I am pleased to announce that Port Moody residents will be seen through this crisis with the lowest tax rate increase in 21 years.” Corrections (April 23, 2020 at 3:25pm): An earlier version of this article stated "the City awarded $3,200 in grants to community groups" - the correct amount, $4,200, is reflected in the current version. The earlier version stated "employees will be paid up to April 30, 2020, based on average gross earnings during the last three pay periods" - "three pay periods" was incorrect; "six pay periods," as written in the current version, is correct.