Vancouver passes ‘modest’ tax increase
Vancouver city council approves 2% property-tax increase and Mayor Gregor Robertson says the “reflexive cut taxes” attitude is out of step with today’s demand for city services. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)
“It disturbs me there are pots of money out there.” Vancouver Coun. Adriane Carr, referring to community amenity contributions she says are “unallocated” to anything specific in the budget.
Vancouver city council passed its 2013 operating and capital budget Tuesday, with a 2% property-tax hike for homeowners and plenty of vitriol between councillors.
“There is a knee-jerk response to increasing taxes, to how government is managed, without connecting that to the difference it makes in people’s lives. I think it’s been many years of reflexive ‘cut taxes, cut government,’” said Mayor Gregor Robertson, adding the “modest” increase is needed to keep up with inflation and pay for services ranging from community gardens to building inspections. “Those (areas) make a marked difference in people’s lives.”
Some budget highlights include $9.6 million for affordable housing, $2 million for a new police community safety program and $11.8 million to boost bike and pedestrian safety.
NPA Coun. George Affleck said the real increase is more like 2.75% or higher when you factor in utilities costs.
Affleck said the city was faced with a $30-million deficit and “just made it up by increasing taxes.”
Affleck and Couns. Elizabeth Ball and Adriane Carr all questioned what they considered was a lack of detail in the budget, complaining that many line items were not included.
“Vision councillors have called this (budget) a great story … I tell stories to my kids at bedtime but when it’s budget time I want detail,” Affleck said.
Carr added, “there is too much spin in this budget.”
Coun. Geoff Meggs responded to the criticism by saying there was plenty of detail, right down to listing how many potholes were filled in the city.
Meggs also countered NPA criticism by mocking their “confused” message, saying Affleck wants service cuts while Ball wants arts funding increased.
“It’s like a rowboat in which the two rowers are going in the opposite direction and the boat spins in a tight circle and you really don’t see any progress at all,” Meggs said.
Affleck called a point of order, citing that Meggs was “putting words in my mouth.”
Ball also complained that Meggs should “rise above personal comments” after Meggs referred to her as “wringing her hands” when making decisions.