British Columbia

Hike property taxes TransLink advises mayors

TransLink's board is warning Metro Vancouver mayors to approve a property taxes hike of $61 per household in 2012 or risk losing millions of dollars in federal funding for the Evergreen Line.
TransLink's newest funding plan includes property tax hike to pay for the Evergreen Line to Coquitlam. ((TransLink))

TransLink's board is warning Metro Vancouver mayors to approve a property taxes hike of $61 per household in 2012 or risk losing millions of dollars in federal funding for the Evergreen Line.

Board chair Dale Parker says they considered recommending a vehicle levy on every vehicle registered in region, but doubted it could be put together in time to secure the federal cash or public approval.

Either way, Parker says the mayors need to approve some sort of funding plan by the end of the year, or millions of dollars in federal funding offers will expire.

"We must advise that the public's sentiment, very evident in our consultation, is that we all 'need to get on with it," he said.

Evergreen Line funding on the line

Under TransLinks proposal, the money would be used build the Evergreen Line to Coquitlam as part of it so-called Moving Forward plan for 2011.

But the plan would also include improvements to other stations, increased express bus services, more frequent SeaBus crossings, construction of the first part of the North Fraser Perimeter Road, and improvements to cycling routes throughout the region.

An estimated 68 per cent of the plan would be funded by provincial and federal government grants and the anticipated increase in transit fare revenue. The other 32 per cent would have to come from some new form of regional funding.

TransLink says for 2011, the region's contribution to the plan could come from its cash reserves. But after that, the region's mayors would have to work with provincial government to find a new source for about $80 million in funding.

TransLink has been struggling to come up with a financial plan to upgrade the region's transportation infrastructure for several years, with many mayor arguing the province should provide the required funding.

But this past September its governing Council of Mayors signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the provincial government, agreeing to come up with a portion of the funding for any new projects.

TransLink was created by the provincial government to run Metro Vancouver's transportation infrastucture, including bridges, rapid transit and bus services. It is governed by the Mayor's Council which oversees the Board of Directors. ((Mike Laanela/CBC))

The board considered rolling out a new vehicle levy on all motor vehicles in the region, but eventually dismissed it as unworkable in the short term because of public opposition and the time required to set it up.

"After carefully considering all of the issues raised by the fee, the board believes it is not a practical option at this time. Opposition to it is particularly strong," said Parker.

"Further, it is not within TransLink's means to implement the transportation improvement fee in a timely, effective or efficient manner without provincial assistance. Without it, the fee would be more difficult and costly to collect, which would mean either lower revenue for transportation improvements or the need to charge a higher amount," he said.

Property tax hike recommended

Parker says without the vehicle levy, a property tax hike is the only feasible option.

"Tax on residential properties would increase $8.91 per $100,000 of assessed value for an average household total of approximately $61.65 per year," according to TransLink report.

"Tax on commercial properties would increase between $43.2 and $59.5 per $100,000 of assessed value, depending on building classification," said the report.

The plan has already been approved by the board of TransLink, but requires the approval of Metro Vancouver's Council of Mayors to go ahead.

It also requires the approval of the Regional Transportation Commissioner, who is responsible for ensuring TransLink's plans are financially feasible and contribute to the region's strategic growth strategy.