City of Vancouver staff propose 7.8 percent spending hike in upcoming budget

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      Vancouver’s new mayor and council are scheduled to vote on their first budget on December 18.

      The draft budget for 2019 prepared by staff proposes a property-tax increase of 4.9 percent. The increase is higher than the 4.2-percent hike approved for the 2018 budget by the previous city council.

      The proposed 4.9-percent property-tax increase represents a bill of $2,322 for a single-family home assessed at $1.8 million, or $108 more compared to the current year.

      For a residential unit assessed at $1.2 million, the tax will amount to $1,621, for a $76 increase. Owners of strata units worth $700,000 will get an invoice for $887, or a $41 increase over 2018.

      The draft budget notes that in 2018, 42 percent of residential properties in Vancouver were single-family homes, 53 percent were strata units, and five percent were other forms of housing.

      A business property assessed at $855,300 will get a property-tax bill of $4,139, which is $193 more than this year.

      According to the budget book, half of the property taxes funds city services. The rest goes to regional services, provincial school taxes, transit, and B.C. Assessment.

      The draft budget explains that the 4.9-percent tax increase covers inflation (2.2 percent), the provincial government’s employer health tax (1.7 percent), and investments in infrastructure renewal (1 percent).

      In addition to property taxes, utility fees are also proposed to increase in 2019, at a combined rate of 8.7 percent, representing the average for the following hikes: water, 9.7 percent; sewer, 11 percent; and solid waste, 3.1 percent.

      Moreover, user fees charged by the Vancouver board of parks and recreation will increase by two percent.

      “Over the past several years, Vancouver has consistently had one of the lowest average property-tax increases among Metro Vancouver municipalities,” the draft budget states. “Even when combining municipal taxes with utility fee increases, Vancouver continues to be in the mid-range among the municipalities in Metro Vancouver.”

      An operating budget of $1.5 billion is proposed for 2019. It represents an increase of 7.8 percent, or $109 million, over the current year.

      The Vancouver Police Department is being allotted 21 percent of the operating budget. For 2019, the police will get $317.2 million, a 3.2-percent increase over this year’s $307.3 million.

      “While crime is estimated to be lower in 2019, as compared with that in 2018, the total number of calls for service continues to trend higher,” the draft budget explains. “As the expectations and complexities around policing evolve, the addition of staff will help the VPD achieve the desired trends.”

      A budget briefing for the public will be held on Monday (December 3) at City Hall, from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

      Members of the public have to register online if they wish to address council at a special meeting on December 11.