Bills of single-family Vancouverites jump 14.2 per cent
Mario Tomsich is one of thousands of single-family Vancouver homeowners whose property taxes have surged an average of 14.2 per cent, seven times the rate of inflation.
“The taxes are just skyrocketing because of the value of the property,” the 75-year-old Vancouver landlord said yesterday. “If it keeps going like this, I would have to do something about it. People have been forced to sell their homes.”
The assessed value of Tomsich’s Point Grey home went up by 44 per cent last year, to $1.72 million; his bill for city services increased by 28 per cent, to $4,236.
He’s paying $919 more this year for police, fire, roads, parks, city government, water, sewer, drainage, garbage pickup and recycling. When school, regional and transit levies are added, his total municipal bill is $7,942.
The huge increases came to light during The Province’s annual survey of Metro Vancouver.
The 17 municipalities in the survey averaged increases of 4.81 per cent, 2.4 times the 2007 Consumer Price Index for Vancouver, which was two per cent.
In the survey, Vancouver residents came out with the lowest percentage increase of any city — 0.1.
Vancouver budget director Annette Klein said the 1.23-per-cent tax increase approved by city council was not reflected for single-family dwellings because their assessed values shot up 30 per cent.
They jumped 15 per cent above the average for the residential class, including condos. Property taxes are based on assessed values.
“Single-family homes are picking up more of the overall [tax] revenue,” Klein said. “They are compensating for slower growth in condos.”
Tomsich owns two homes overlooking English Bay in the 4500 block West 2nd.
“I’m not complaining,” he said. “I came here as a lifeguard in 1951 and dreamed of owning a home in Point Grey. This is paradise.
“But the city has no scruples. They keep building unnecessary things. They want to put another lane on the Burrard Bridge for cyclists for $40 million. How do you justify that? Not that many people ride bikes.”
As a senior, Tomsich is able to defer his tax bills; he won’t have to pay until the properties are sold or he dies.
Dunbar home owner Sean O’Mahony, whose taxes went up in the 25-per-cent range, said there was no advance notice from the city.
“They just jacked it up and away we go,” he said. “Everyone scuttles into work for a few extra hours to pay for the bloody increase.”
Vancouver Coun. Suzanne Anton, who was surprised by the 14.2-per-cent hike, blamed the B.C. Assessment Authority for rising bills.
“You get the feeling that the assessors hadn’t gone through for a couple of years and the assessments went way up,” she said.
“The good news is the equity went way up. The bad news is you’re paying more tax. If the house is worth a lot more money and taxes have gone up a couple of thousand [dollars], you’re still ahead of the game.
“The scheme is about as fair as it can be. B.C. Assessment is an independent authority.
“The bills are hard on some people. If taxes go up quite high and you don’t have a lot of income, then it’s hard on you,” Anton said.
The increases also came as a result of council’s policy to transfer part of the tax burden from businesses to residents, Anton said.
Tax critic Maureen Bader said municipal costs will keep rising until councils’ budgets are based on revenue instead of spending.
“Some municipalities are very irresponsible, with spending on things like stadiums, arenas and the Olympics,” said Bader, B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. “Taxpayers can expect it to get worse.”