Vancouver City Council has approved a 4.5% property tax increase, as part of the city’s $1.513 million operating budget for 2019 and a $365.8 million capital budget for new projects in 2019.
The 4.5% increase is a reduction from the 4.9% proposed tax rate in the draft budget, through reductions in the Innovation Fund and the Council Contingency.
During an interview with Daily Hive prior to the budget’s approval, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart expressed his support for the budget, as well as the process.
“We had a careful look through and I liked everything I saw there,” he said.
He recognized that there may be some pushback to the increase, but noted it’s important to keep things in perspective.
“Things in this budget include budgeting for 25 new police officers and five extra firefighters, which is paid for by the increase,” he said. “People hear the phrase 4.9%, but for someone that owns a $700,000 condo, that’s $3 a month, which is not too bad.”
The new, 4.5% approved increase is comprised of:
- 1% to fund additional investments in infrastructure renewal approved in the 2019-2022 Capital Plan
- 1.7% to cover increased costs related to the provincial government’s new Employer Health Tax;
- 1.8% to cover inflationary and wage costs of existing services, and new investments to maintain and improve services (reduced from 2.2%)
“With limited sources of revenue, it’s a real challenge for the city to find ways to address all of the issues that are important to our residents,” said Stewart upon the budget’s approval. “Over the past several weeks we’ve listened to feedback and made adjustments in this approved budget which reflect what we heard.”
The budget, he added, gives staff a “mandate to proceed with action on so many important priorities in our city.”
Those priorities include:
- Increasing housing supply and affordability, and improve availability and supports for renters and vulnerable citizens;
- Maintaining and improve operations and service levels
- Investing in public safety
- Continuing to build vibrant communities and public spaces that support arts, culture and the environment
- Meeting commitments to provide safe and healthy workplaces and public spaces
As part of the discussion and debate on the budget, individual Councillors proposed a number of amendments to reflect the priorities of Council – nine members of which were newly elected on October 20. Key amendments to the draft budget that were approved included:
- Allocation of $20 million of Empty Homes Tax revenue, when received, to address housing supply and affordability for renters and vulnerable citizens
- Allocation of funding from the Empty Homes Tax revenue to help reduce the cost of permitting, licensing and planning for residents wanting to create secondary or basement suites
- Deferral of approval of funding of $5.38 million for improvements to the Robson Square public plaza, to be reallocated to affordable housing
- A commitment to fully fund the additional resources for Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services over five years, as identified by the Dark Horse report
- Allocation of up to $5 million from the capital plan to pursue building retrofits for carbon emission reductions; staff were also directed to pursue additional funding from other levels of government to support this work
- An increase in the number of public recycling stations by 50% through reallocation of funds within the Solid Waste Utility
Council also requested staff to engage the Property Tax Policy Review Commission to explore a 2% property tax shift from commercial to non-commercial taxpayers, with the goal of supporting small business and retail
A revised Park Board budget of $129 million in expenditures, including an additional $610,000 requested by the board to increase horticulture service standards was also approved, as well as the $317 million Vancouver Police Board and $54 million Vancouver Public Library budgets.
“I am very pleased that this new Council was able to come together to approve a budget for 2019,” said Stewart.
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