City of Vancouver pondering 6.3% property-tax hike

Friday, October 27th, 2006

John Bermingham

Vancouver homeowners could be asked to shell out 6.3 per cent more in their property taxes to cover the city’s spending overruns.

In operating-budget estimates going before council Tuesday, budget staffer Annette Klein says the city’s funding shortfall amounts to a 4.9-per-cent tax increase. And $7.1 million in new spending could tack on another 1.4-per-cent to the property-tax bill.

“If we don’t make any changes in the budget . . . this is approximately what it would be to run the city,” said Klein. “On top of it, we have these funding requests.”

In July, the NPA-dominated council voted to cap future property-tax hikes at four per cent. “Now, what we’re going to do is keep working on this, and come back with some options on how to get to that four [per cent],” Klein said.

Next year’s inflation rate is pegged at two per cent.

Last year, council raised taxes four per cent after a gruelling budget process. It cut costs to social programs and community and arts groups. The city also eliminated the equivalent of 25 full-time jobs.

This year, the city’s front-line staff are looking for a wage increase. Their union, CUPE Local 15, is in collective bargaining with the city.

“Obviously, we’ll be looking for a wage increase, but at this point we are not talking about those numbers,” CUPE president Paul Faoro said yesterday.

He’s concerned another round of layoffs and service cuts are on the way. “We don’t believe the public wants a cut in public service,” he said.

Adding to pressure on the budget, the Vancouver Police Department is reviewing its staffing needs and may ask for extra patrol officers in January.

Meanwhile, Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan has promised to shift taxes off business over a 20-year period.

Sara McIntyre, B.C. director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said cities like Vancouver have been ramping up property taxes for years.

McIntyre said total municipal revenues in B.C. have jumped 44 per cent in four years. She figures municipal spending has risen by a similar amount.

“You have a wish list drawn up by councillors,” she added. “Then they basically set the property tax rate to basically get that money. There’s no incentive to be fiscally responsible.”

In November, the public will be asked to give feedback on what city services they can and can’t do without in Vancouver, and what would be an acceptable tax increase.

© The Vancouver Province 2006


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