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Vancouver mayor says he knows a 10.7% increase in property taxes ‘sucks’

Click to play video: 'Vancouver tax hike could be larger than first announced'
Vancouver tax hike could be larger than first announced
WATCH: Vancouver Mayor Ken Sims says homeowners could face a tax hike increase of 10.7%, higher than what was first proposed. Aaron McArthur reports. – Feb 28, 2023

Vancouver city council is now proposing a 10.7 per cent increase in property taxes for the coming year, which is the biggest increase in more than a decade.

An increase of 9.7 per cent was proposed previously.

Mayor Ken Sim made the announcement Tuesday morning, saying he knows property tax increases are hard.

“Frankly, they suck,” he said. “We completely understand that nobody likes property tax increases.”

However, Sim said the majority ABC council was elected with a “clear mandate for change.

“I believe it’s important that we talk about the current state of our city’s finances,” he said. “As with many other governments around the region, inflation and the rising cost of labour continue to place significant pressure on municipal budgets here in Vancouver.”

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Sim said the previous council’s spending during the COVID-19 pandemic drained the city’s cash reserves but the greatest concern is the degree to which core services have been neglected over the past decade.

He said this includes public safety, road upkeep, sanitation services and critical infrastructure maintenance.

Under the proposed budget, engineering services would receive $1,030,000 for improving roads, pothole repairs and horticulture.

An additional $186,000 would be allocated towards micro-cleaning grants to keep plazas and parklets clean.

“In recognition for the need for greater transparency on our city’s snow response, under this amendment, there would finally be a dedicated line item for snow readiness and response to the tune of $1.8 million annually, which is fitting in light of the fact that we’re literally going through a snow storm in the city of Vancouver during this press conference,” Sim said.

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He added that $4.19 million from the budget would go towards Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services, allowing them to hire 33 new positions in 2023.

In addition, $3.6 million would go to the Vancouver Police Department budget, which includes a $200,000 allocation for the body-worn camera pilot program, $450,000 towards community policing efforts and $1.16 million for “communications and evidence management technology.”

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The Vancouver Public Library would receive $110,000 to create a staff position that would provide training and build staff skills in crisis prevention and intervention, Sim said.

“Additionally, $100,000 would be made available to support staff reskilling, increasing the number of public service positions within the organization,” he added.

An additional $406,000 would be allocated toward advancing accessibility initiatives to address upcoming provincial legislation and hiring a language specialist, enabling residents from a wider range of linguistic backgrounds to engage with the City of Vancouver’s proposals and programs.

Click to play video: 'A potential tax hike for Vancouver homeowners'
A potential tax hike for Vancouver homeowners

With regard to reconciliation, Sim said $210,000 will be allocated to allow for an increase in intergovernmental relations, staffing and the completion of the ongoing work on gender, equity and safety related to missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and unsafe spaces.

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“Finally, this amendment would call for reallocations to accommodate the continuation of anti-Black racism and South Asian cultural redress work and the hiring of a new senior planner,” Sim said.

“We can make these investments now or we can wait until the future when they become even more costly and problematic for residents.

“These are hard choices to make but they are the right choices.”

Click to play video: 'Vancouver property owners facing a nearly 10 per cent tax increase'
Vancouver property owners facing a nearly 10 per cent tax increase

Sim noted that residents are also facing seven per cent inflation.

“We have a humanitarian crisis in the Downtown Eastside so it’s really hard to amortize that cost when people are literally, incredibly, living in incredibly challenging situations and dangerous situations,” he said.

“When you have the side of the aquatic centre falling off, or Kits Pool being closed for the year, or potholes all over the city, these are all investments that were neglected. They were not done over the last decade.”

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A portion of the budget will also go toward wages, Sim said. People who work for the City of Vancouver are facing the same inflation and pressures as everyone else living in the city and he said they need to be able to retain good people.

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