Vancouver council approves 7.5 per cent property tax hike

A seagull stands atop a statue of Captain George Vancouver outside Vancouver City Hall, on Sat. Jan. 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Vancouver city councillors approved a $2.2-billion operating budget for the city that will see homeowners fork out 7.5 per cent more in property tax in 2024.

That’s down significantly from the 10.7 per cent they paid last year and 9.5 per cent forecast earlier this year, but is still the second highest tax hike in the last decade.

City staff were able to cut nearly two points off the expected increase through a variety of measures, including across the board fee hikes on everything from business licences to parking permits.

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The tax increase translates into just under $100 for a median condo unit, and about $260 for a median detached home.

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That’s a fraction of the $1,260 more per year a Vancouver renter paying the average $3,000 per month for a one-bedroom will be on the hook for under B.C.’s maximum allowable rent increase in 2024.

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According to city staff, the tax hike will break down as 1 per cent for infrastructure renewal, 3 per cent to boost the Vancouver Police Department budget, and 3.5 per cent for other city services.

Vancouver police will see their budget climb by $32 million. Staff had recommended at $30 million increase, while the VPD had sought a $36 million hike. Police services account for roughly one-fifth of the city’s entire operating budget.

Absent from the budget was a clear path to hiring 100 mental health nurses, a key plank in Mayor Ken Sim’s election platform. As of October, just 9.5 full-time positions had been filled.

The budget will delay a funding increase of $1 million to the Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services to “reflect the estimated timing of hiring and onboarding of new staff” to 2025. Council has committed to hiring 22 new firefighters.

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The budget also includes a $180,000 increase to the Mayor’s Office, $80,000 of which will go to the City Clerk’s Department to hire a new position in support of the mayor’s office.

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Tuesday’s budget does not reflect any potential recommendations from the Mayor’s Budget Task Force, an initiative Mayor Ken Sim pledged would go through the budget with a “fine-toothed comb” to find efficiencies.

That document was due this fall ahead of budget deliberations, but has been delayed until the new year.

It also does not include any costs associated with the mayor’s proposal to disband the city’s elected park board.

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