British Columbia

Vancouver passes 7% property tax increase for 2020

With expenses of $1.6 billion, the budget is the largest of any B.C. municipality. 

With expenses of $1.6 billion, city's budget is largest of any B.C. municipality

Vancouver's new budget cuts approximately $9 million from originally proposed expenses for 2020. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

Vancouver homeowners will see their highest property tax increase in at least a decade — but it will be smaller than what was originally considered. 

Council passed its 2020 budget Tuesday with an average seven per cent property tax increase for next year, down from the 8.2 per cent proposed last month.

"It is funding … council priorities that align with public priorities," said Coun. Adriane Carr, who brought forward the main amendments to the budget.

"[But] in every department there's work around belt-tightening, around finding efficiencies, around delaying hiring, delaying some projects." 

Most sections of the budget passed with the four NPA councillors and independent Rebecca Bligh — who recently left the NPA — in opposition.

"It's still far higher than what residents said they were comfortable with," said Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung. 

City staff said the median single-family homeowner would see a $183 increase in their property taxes next year, to $2,480. In addition, increases to utility fees will cost an extra $143 for the median single-family homeowner.  

With expenses of $1.6 billion, the budget is the largest of any B.C. municipality. 

Where are the cuts?

The budget keeps most of the priorities in the original proposal by staff, including a new $6.8 million in funding to "accelerate action on climate change," and a new $4.1 million in funding for affordable housing policies, including a new tenant relocation and protection policy.

But Carr's amendments brought approximately $9 million in cuts, including: 

  • Reducing money for the city-wide plan to $4.5 million from $6 million.
  • Reducing money to support the tent city at Oppenheimer Park to $500,000 from $1 million.  
  • Eliminating the city's $1-million Innovation Fund.
  • Reducing a new reserve for snow and storm events to $1 million from $2 million.

In addition, discretionary costs for several departments were reduced, while money available for new hires in the Vancouver Police Department was reduced by approximately 20 per cent.  

There were a number of amendments put forward by the four NPA councillors to further reduce costs from Carr's proposal but they failed, with Jean Swanson, Christine Boyle, the three Green councillors, and Mayor Stewart forming a bloc on most votes. 

But there were exceptions. An amendment by Swanson to completely cancel the planned 35 new hires by the VPD failed, with only Christine Boyle in support.

And an amendment ensuring Councillor Colleen Hardwick's independent auditor general's office would still be funded passed, with many councillors saying they were hopeful the new office would find savings in the budget in future years.

"The population has grown by 10 per cent in the last decade … the budget has grown well in excess of that," Hardwick said. 

"This is a bitter pill for Vancouver property taxpayers."

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