Coun. David Cadman believes that it’s simply unfair for Vancouver residents to pay more property tax and get fewer—but more expensive—services next year, while businesses see no tax increase.
City hall is planning to raise property taxes by up to two percent as part of its 2010 budget, but according to the Coalition of Progressive Electors councillor, residents will face an increase higher than this rate.
“By going to a two-percent tax increase and then shifting the taxes off of business and onto the residents, what will happen is residents are going to have a four-percent tax increase, whereas businesses are going to have no tax increase,” Cadman told the Georgia Straight by phone.
The shifting of taxes from nonresidential to residential properties has been going on since 2006, and, according to Cadman, businesses should pay their fair share.
“It’s time to say, ”˜We can’t do that anymore,’ ” he said. “Residents have seen tax increases that far, far outstripped inflation as a result of shifting the tax increases from business onto the residents.”
The tax shift isn’t the only bad news expected to come in the 2010 budget for people living in this city.
Residents will also pay four percent more for services like swimming in a community pool or skating at a public ice rink, so the city can raise $10.9 million to bridge a funding shortfall.
In addition to this, libraries will close earlier, parks will be maintained less, and streets will be cleaned less, because the city wants to save at least $20 million in expenses in 2010.
On top of all these proposals, Cadman said, when the harmonized sales tax kicks in on July 1, 2010, residents will have to fork over seven percent more in taxes for these services.
“When you have hard times, more and more people go to libraries and go to their community centres,” he noted. “Remember that $5 million will be taken out of this year’s budget to go into the Olympic fund.”¦it’s that irony of we’re putting on a grand sports event, but if you want to keep fit and do sports yourself, you’re going to pay more money for that. That’s not going to be subsidized. It’s going to be a large party that’s going to be subsidized.”
Parking restrictions during the Olympics mean the city will lose
$1.8 million in revenues, according to Cadman. “So now we’re told that in order to recoup that money, we’re going to increase parking fees again by $2 million on the residents,” he said.
According to city manager Penny Ballem’s November 17 presentation to council, staff are proposing that the city shed the equivalent of 100 full-time employees in 2010. This is in addition to an estimated 58 positions that will be cut due to a recent review of city services.
Layoffs could affect all city departments except the police. But according to Chief Constable Jim Chu, the Vancouver Police Department isn’t hiring new officers to fill 35 vacancies.
“We will leave the positions vacant so they’re not funded,” Chu told the Straight during a break in the council meeting on November 17. “So it is the same as losing an FTE [full-time equivalent] until the funding is restored.”
However, in a phone interview with the Straight, David Eby, executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said the VPD’s budget is “going up by $6 million at the same time as every other city budget is being cut”.
Eby also explained that the police department hired 96 new officers after this was approved by council in March 2008, and that the 35 vacancies will be created through attrition, with nobody being laid off.
“What they’re not saying is that they’re up [by] a net increase of 61 officers over the last year,” he said. “It’s not like there’s going to be 35 fewer officers tomorrow. It’s possible that we will go through a full year even without losing half of those 35 officers.”
Paul Faoro, president of Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 15, pointed out that more than 158 city workers could lose their jobs next year, because multiple part-time and auxiliary workers may currently fill the equivalent of one full-time position.
On November 17, Mayor Gregor Robertson told reporters the Olympics will boost the city’s economy. “It’s natural that there’s some hangover after a gigantic event like this, but I think the overall lift and all the investments that’s going into it will be significant and will far offset these minor changes in the budget,” Robertson said.
Staff will submit another budget report on December 1, and council is expected to approve the budget on December 15.