Vancouver councillors send budget with 8.2% tax hike back to the drawing board

Vancouver Kennedy Stewart and NPA Coun. Melissa de Genova are pictured at Vancouver City Hall in this undated photo. Global News

It looks like Vancouver homeowners won’t be handed an 8.2-per cent property tax hike after all.

The city’s controversial draft budget for 2020 was rejected by councillors Tuesday, who asked staff to come back Wednesday with suggestions to get the hike down to between five and seven per cent.

That new document will then go to debate and decision next Tuesday.

The move to defer the budget vote was initiated by the Non-Partisan Association’s (NPA) Coun. Lisa Dominato.

Dominato’s NPA colleague, Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung, said the public had been unequivocal about the magnitude of the tax hikes.

We’re hearing loud and clear that the increase is too high,” she told CKNW’s Lynda Steele Show.

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Click to play video: 'City of Vancouver proposes 8.2% property tax hike'
City of Vancouver proposes 8.2% property tax hike

It’s not the only increase they’re facing. We’re hearing every day that food costs are going to go up, condo insurance is expected to go up about 30 per cent next year, transportation is becoming more expensive, car insurance is becoming more expensive.

“So people are really feeling it.”

The proposed $1.6-billion draft budget had actually involved a 9.3-per cent hike in city revenues once new utility fees were included.

That figure drew significant public criticism, along with opposition from councillors like Rebecca Bligh, who called it “outrageous.”

Click to play video: 'Controversial Vancouver city budget under the microscope'
Controversial Vancouver city budget under the microscope

Kirby-Yung said she’s somewhat apprehensive that staff will be able to truly revise their estimates in less than a day.

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“That concerns me, because I don’t think that an overnight turnaround means you’re really looking at changing how you do things,” she told CKNW’s Lynda Steele Show.

“If you come back tomorrow, how much information can you actually get to look at? Are we doing all the same things we’ve always done and doing it the same way?”

The draft budget included $111 million in new spending.

Some of the budget’s proposed spending was earmarked for fixed costs to maintain current service levels. Another portion was allocated as funding for new police officers and firefighters.

But a third portion was money for a variety of initiative councillors themselves approved earlier this year.

Those include new funding for social housing, street cleaning and implementing the city’s “big moves” to combat the declared climate emergency.

Staff warned council back in July that its new priorities could push property taxes up by as much as 10 per cent.

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