Vancouver's proposed property tax leap to be voted on by council today

Vancouver's proposed property tax leap to be voted on by council todayHome owners in Vancouver will likely find out Tuesday how much their property taxes will increase next year — but not before what's expected to be a long council meeting.Council is scheduled to vote on its 2020 budget, which has a proposed 8.2 per cent average property tax increase for residents. It would mean an estimated increase of $354 for the City of Vancouver's portion of the property tax bill on the median single-family home, from $3,809 to $4,163, once utilities are factored in. That would be the largest tax increase in at least a decade, necessary because of $111 million in additional spending budgeted for next year. And while the majority of councillors believe that figure should be lowered, it remains to be seen if they can agree on what they want to reduce. "It's going to be a very difficult position for us to pick off individual items," said Green councillor Michael Wiebe."However, we do need to give staff clear direction on … where we do want to see some movement in funding." Where to cut?Different councillors have different spending increases they either want to preserve or to reduce."In general I don't want anything cut out of housing or anything cut out of climate change," said Jean Swanson. "I think those are both … emergencies that we have to get serious about addressing."Those items take up approximately $10.9 million in new spending, and Swanson said she'll be pushing for a reduction in new funding for the police department. Melissa De Genova said she didn't want to see money taken away from housing and child care initiatives, but said she was keeping an open mind on the budget as a whole. "The question is, can we afford it. And at what cost. And I'd hate to see people who live in Vancouver who love Vancouver driven out  because unfortunately this council is again making it out of reach," she said.Other councillors have proposed giving staff a new number for a property tax increase, and leaving the details of cuts to them. But Wiebe — who wants to preserve $6 million in spending next year for the city-wide plan — said that could be tough. "You say 'staff come back', but they're like 'we need more direction," he said. "However, we're not supposed to be granular and being prescriptive … because that's not our role." Highest in Metro VancouverUnlike provincial or federal governments, local governments cannot propose budget deficits. Property taxes are annually set by each municipality to ensure enough revenue is raised to pay for annual expenses — though many B.C. communities have seen large surpluses in recent years.   In the last two weeks, a number of Metro Vancouver municipalities have brought forward 2020 budgets, all with tax increases lower than Vancouver's. Monday, the City of Richmond passed a budget with an average 4.98 per cent property tax increase for next year, while Coquitlam's was passed with a 2.98 per cent increase for homeowners.In addition, Metro Vancouver has passed a budget with an average $33 increase in regional property tax levy per household, primarily to pay for utility services like sewage and water.

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