The B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation says there should be a property-tax cap to control spending by local governments.
Maureen Bader claimed that this is necessary to stop the type of pay hikes that Straight.com reported earlier today at Metro Vancouver.
According to a report going to the Metro Vancouver board tomorrow (June 26), 248 regional district employees received remuneration in excess of $100,000 last year. That’s almost double the 129 Metro Vancouver employees who were paid in excess of $100,000 in 2007.
Metro Vancouver chief administrative officer Johnny Carline collected $291,755 in 2008. That’s a $31,620 boost over what he received in 2007.
“This is the same story probably all over British Columbia—but certainly all over the Lower Mainland—where we’ve got municipal staff and municipal governments giving themselves giving themselves pay increases and who are at salary levels far in excess of the people who are stuck paying the bills,” Bader said.
Statistics Canada reported today (June 25) that the average weekly wage including overtime in B.C. in April was $790.13, which was virtually unchanged from April 2008. That works out to $41,086.76 on an annual basis.
Bader claimed that Metro Vancouver is becoming “entirely unaffordable” at the current salary levels. The regional government relies in part on property taxes levied on homeowners and businesses to pay its bills.
Metro Vancouver funds its $522-million annual budget through a variety of revenue sources, including a municipal levy ($38.4 million), an electoral area levy ($213,825), a Greater Vancouver Sewerage and Drainage District levy ($144.1 million), user fees ($128.7 million), and water sales ($160.3 million).
“What we need from the provincial government is a cap on property taxes, which would force municipal councils to make difficult decisions, like for instance keeping salary levels under control,” Bader said. “What we need to do is to get more competition in the provision of municipal services, which would then allow for these salary levels to be moderated and probably fall.”
Bader said that amalgamating Metro Vancouver’s 21 municipalities into one megacity probably wouldn’t contain spending. She said that in Montreal, where the municipalities were amalgamated, spending actually increased.
“What has happened is that there have been no job reductions, and all of the salary levels go up to the highest level,” she said. “So it has been a far more expensive proposition than most people realized. It has not worked out in the best interests of taxpayers. A megacity could increase costs to taxpayers, so it’s probably not the best solution.”