NPA councillor Rebecca Bligh describes proposed 8.2-percent property tax hike as "outrageous"

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      It's likely going to be a long day in the Vancouver city council chamber.

      That's because today is when local residents will be able to speak to the politicians about the proposed 2020 budget. And councillors will have a chance to propose their own changes.

      Staff have brought forward a proposed 8.2 percent increase in property taxes, along with a 0.5 percent shift from the commercial to residential categories.

      It's already elicited opposition from NPA councillor Rebecca Bligh.

      She's characterized the property tax increase as "OUTRAGEOUS".

      "It is the largest in a decade and must be reduced," Bligh tweeted last night. "I'll be asking the City tomorrow to lessen the tax burden on residents and take a serious review of the 2020 budget."

      NPA councillors Lisa Dominato and Sarah Kirby-Yung and Green councillor Pete Fry have also expressed concern over the magnitude of the proposed tax increase.

      Council often shaves back increases

      It's not unusual for staff to bring forward a proposed budget with tax increases that are cut back somewhat by council.

      What's different this year is the magnitude of the proposed tax hike—it's significantly larger than in previous years.

      If the proposed budget is approved by council, it means the owner of a median single-family home valued at $1,755,000 would pay $2,508 in annual property taxes to the city.

      That would be $211 more than the taxes charged for this home in 2019.

      The owner of a median residential strata assessed at $740,000 would pay a $1,057, which is $89 higher than the previous year.

      A median business property valued at $976,000 would pay $4,160, which would be a $272 increase over the amount paid in 2019.

      "The City does not generate higher property tax revenues as a result of rising property values," a summary document states.

      The draft budget calls for revenues to exceed $2 billion for the first time in history.

      About $340 million is slated to go to the Vancouver Police Department, which equates to about 21 percent of the entire budget. Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services would receive 9 percent of the proposed budget.

      The general manager of planning, urban design, and sustainability, Gil Kelley, gets the largest percentage increase in the proposed budget.

      Libraries would get smallest increase

      Operating spending on community services would rise 12.9 percent, but that's not the highest percentage increase.

      Planning, urban design, and sustainability would see the biggest hike at 27.1 percent, though it's a relatively small portion of the entire budget. Many politicians on council and the mayor campaigned on speeding up the development-approval process.

      The proposed budget for the mayor and council has a 9.5 percent spike in 2020, whereas corporate services would go up by 7 percent.

      That contrasts with a proposed 5.2 percent increase in spending on police services.

      Utilities would rise by 8.5 percent if the budget is approved. Engineering would be up 6.3 percent. Fire and rescue expenditures would climb 5.3 percent.

      Parks and recreation would see a 4.8 percent hike whereas library expenditures would only go up 2.2 percent.

      The library and park systems often see smaller increases in operating funding than other departments in council budgets. Their boards have an ability to raise funds in other ways.

      City staff have proposed a far smaller increase to libraries than to other departments.

      Capital plan includes big-ticket items

      The draft multi-year capital budget for 2020 would add $507 million in spending. That includes $306 million in 2020.

      The draft multi-year capital plan proposes $142 million for water infrastructure; $77 million for transportation; $72.3 million for affordable housing; $41.3 million for community facilities; $40.9 million for parks and open spaces; $29.8 million for civic facilities and equipment, $25.9 million for technology; $25.6 million for solid waste; $14.8 million for public safety; $13.4 million for arts and culture; $8.4 million for renewable energy; and $8.2 million for childcare. 

      Just over half of the property taxes go to the city and 20 percent funds regional transit and the regional government. Another 27 percent goes to the provincial government as "school taxes", though it ends up in general revenue.

      Because Vancouver has higher property values, it pays more in school taxes to the province than what flows back from the province to the Vancouver school district.

      A year ago, council voted 7-3 in favour of Bligh's motion calling on the province to cancel a surtax on homes valued at more than $3-million. The only votes against were by Mayor Kennedy Stewart and councillors Jean Swanson and Christine Boyle.