In a surprise move, Vancouver city council passed its 2023 budget Tuesday night, just hours after the mayor announced city hall was considering a virtually 11 per cent property tax.
The ten.7 per cent tax hike — up from an initially proposed 9.7 per cent — was approved in a virtually unanimous budget vote that can see spending increase for the hearth department, police and city engineering services.
Mayor Ken Sim conceded the hefty increase “sucks,” and pinned the blame on what he said was years of underfunding, leaving core city services badly in need of latest investments.
“These usually are not normal times. Property tax increases of this magnitude cannot and is not going to turn into the norm as we move forward,” Sim said. “Our team will proceed to look for methods to realize cost savings.”
Among the many approved recent core service funding was just over $4 million to rent 33 recent firefighters, a collection of budget asks from the Vancouver Police Department boosting its budget over $400 million this 12 months, $1.8 million for snow readiness, $600,000 to extend “horticulture service levels,” and $300,000 for road maintenance.
However the budget also included some big ticket non-core service measures that aren’t funded in every other Metro Vancouver municipality.
That features $2.8 million for Vancouver Coastal Health to rent mental health nurses, one in all Sim’s key campaign guarantees.
Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West contrasted Vancouver’s situation to his own city, where council managed to carry the property tax hike to three.38 per cent 12 months.
Port Coquitlam council, he said, assessed the budget line by line with a spotlight of trimming all unnecessary spending, while other cities have tried to resolve problems that must be the responsibility of the provincial and federal governments.
“We’ve been elected to Port Coquitlam city council, not the United Nations General Assembly,” West said.
“So we stay very focused on what the core responsibilities of the municipality are on — on roads, on parks, on snow removal, on cleanliness.”
Municipal tax money has been utilized in Vancouver in efforts to deal with range of social problems, including tackling the toxic drug crisis and constructing and running social housing.
The BC NDP government pledged a one-time $1 billion fund this 12 months to assist municipalities with infrastructure, but that cash will only go to capital projects, and won’t cover operating costs.
“Similar to community amenities. We recognize that there are also aging infrastructure as well,” Municipal Affiars Minister Anne Kang said.
The newly-approved budget is $29 million higher than the previous proposal, with amendments made during Tuesday’s public hearing.
Property taxes will likely be around $326 more for a single-family home and business property owners could pay around $549 more in 2023.
The common condo owner will now pay around $124 more, based on the assessed value of the property starting this 12 months.
— with files from Kareem Gouda
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