March 21, 2018 11:42 pm
Updated: March 21, 2018 11:46 pm

West Vancouver mayor slams ‘scandalous’ school tax hike for expensive homes

A view of West Vancouver, British Columbia with Ambleside Park in foreground at right.

CP PHOTO/Don Denton
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While several B.C. communities have launched a campaign against the NDP government’s planned speculation tax, one B.C. mayor says his city is being unfairly targeted by another new tax measure.

Along with the speculation tax, the 2018 budget also includes a hike in the province’s school tax for homes worth more than $3 million.

READ MORE: What’s in the BC NDP’s $6B plan to fix the housing market?

In 2019, the rate will increase by 0.2 per cent for the portion of a home’s value over $3 million, and 0.4 per cent for the portion of a home’s value over $4 million.

LISTEN: District of West Vancouver mayor slams school tax hike

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West Vancouver Mayor Michael Smith says that measure is a slap in the face to his constituents, many of whom he says will have trouble paying.

“People are going to be struggling to find the money to pay this tax. This is a very, very serious concern. I’ve had hundreds of letters and emails on this,” Smith told CKNW’s The Lynda Steele Show.

Smith estimates the new tax will draw about $50 million from 7,000 West Vancouver homeowners.

READ MORE: B.C.’s new taxes on $3M homes could lean hard on Vancouver’s west side, maps show

He said it is a common misconception that everyone in his city is rich, and that in reality many residents are seniors living on a fixed income.

“There are an awful lot of people that might have paid $30,000 or $40,000 for their house that’s now worth $4 million or $5 million. They’re not wealthy people.”

LISTEN: Your calls on higher taxes for West Vancouver homeowners

Smith acknowledged that those owners could always defer their taxes, and have them deducted from the home’s value at sale or death. But he said that’s not an acceptable option to many.

“I’ve talked to a lot of seniors who they don’t, to them it’s debt. And deferring tax is passing debt onto the next generation.”

READ MORE: Government promises clarity of speculation tax in ‘days ahead’

He argued it’s not so simple for these owners to sell and move either.

With West Vancouver homes carrying some of the highest assessed values in B.C., Smith said they are now disproportionately subject to a suite of taxes including property tax, property transfer tax, school tax, foreign buyers tax and the new speculation tax. He said that’s scaring away buyers.

“It’s completely unfair and unreasonable, and it has no relationship to your income or your ability to pay. It’s a scandalous tax, there’s just no other way to describe it.”

While the NDP government says it is revisiting details of its controversial speculation tax, it has given no indication of a willingness to budge on the school tax.

Finance Minister Carole James says legislation on the various taxes introduced in February’s budget will be introduced in the fall.

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