Vancouver tax increase: the lowest — or among the highest?

Every municipality is struggling with tax increases right now.

They all got hit by big jumps in their wage bills, as the four-per-cent increase (negotiated by unions, but usually also given to the non-union staff) hit, while their businesses and residents are still in the throes of the recession. Plus they’re getting less in interest on their reserves, also thanks to the recession.

Interestingly, though, I couldn’t find anyone but West Vancouver even considering a zero per cent increase — and that’s likely only because West Van has the highest taxes by far of anywhere in the region. Instead, many mayors said that a zero increase generally just means you pay more later on.

Richard Walton, in the District of North Van, said that there’s a tendency sometimes for politicians to talk about a zero-, one- or two-per-cent increase “to make the public happy.” But, he said, that kind of increase — less than inflation or the actual cost of services — inevitably means having to skimp on maintaining infrastrucutre. And, inevitably, that maintenance has to be done, sometimes at a higher cost, later on.

So most increases I could find came in around 2.5 – 3.5 per cent. That makes Vancouver’s tax increase look pretty good, at only 2.2 per cent. Until, as I note in my Globe story, you look at what the real increase will be when the tax shift from business to residential goes through. Then it will be 4.2 per cent for homeowners.

By the way, one oddity I discovered while doing the research for my Globe story. Although Vancouver businesses are taxed at a higher rate than those in Surrey, homeowners in Vancouver are actually taxed less.

Numbers nerds who wish to follow the links and track down the mill rates (the rate per $1,000 of assessed value) will discover that Vancouver’s mill rate in 2010 was $2.14 per $1,000, while Surrey’s is $2.46. That means a million-dollar house in Vancouver would pay $2,014 in city taxes, while one in Surrey would be $2,460.

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