Property owners in Vancouver could face a property tax increase of 5.5 per cent this year to cover a budget shortfall of $21.8 million.

In a report to city council, the city's Director of Finance says hiring 30 new police officers, wage and benefit increases for city employees plus provincial downloading of court costs have all added up.

Ken Bayne says councillors have to decide whether to boost property taxes by an average of $60 to $100 a year, or cut programs or a combination of both

"They have the choice between raising taxes, or making adjustments to the budget that will eliminate the $22 million," says Ken Bayne.

COPE councillor Tim Louis, who chairs council's budget committee, argues a tax increase of 5.5 per cent would be proportionately less than under the right-leaning NPA party's five-per-cent increase last year.

But the NPA's Sam Sullivan disagrees with Louis's math. He says the COPE-dominated council is trying to avoid cutting programs.

"I know this government is not excited about cutting anything, " he says. "And I think this is a good time to welcome them to the realities of being in good government."

Public meetings will be held over the next few weeks to discuss the city's financial options. A budget is to go to council for a decision April 8.