Premier David Eby signalled that the provincial government won’t directly support municipalities facing significant property tax hikes.
When asked on Friday (March 3) whether the provincial government would help offset such hikes, Eby said municipal governments are “accountable” to their communities, while acknowledging that they are facing rising costs like everybody else during a time of global inflation.
Population growth has put pressure on municipalities and regional districts across the province, Eby said, adding that the province supports municipalities year-over-year.
“We have confidence in local government to address those issues at their level.”
The comments come just a few weeks after the B.C. NDP government announced the $1-billion Growing Communities Fund, a one-time grant program that will be made available to communities – although many leaders are waiting for futher details.
“Our work with municipalities, with regional districts around this fund is to ensure that they have the resources to build out the things that make communities work — the fun things, the arenas, the pools, the trails, things like that – but also the essential infrastructure – the roads, the sidewalks, the street lights and other essential things,” he said.
Municipal governments across the province are preparing and finalizing their budgets with homeowners facing double-digit hikes in property taxes.
Vancouver passed a budget that raises revenues from property taxes by 10.7 per cent. Surrey leaders pondered a 17-plus per cent take hike, the same rate that the District of Lake Country in the Central Okanagan has already approved, but has since voted to limit it to no more than 12.5 per cent.
Meanwhile, Penticton has passed up to 9.7 per cent increases, depending on the scenario, and Prince George approved a 7.58-per-cent spike.
But the picture is not uniform.
Other communities are seeing more modest hikes as in the case Kamloops (4.96 per cent), Metro Vancouver’s Burnaby (3.99 per cent) and Kelowna (3.8 per cent), among others.
While circumstances differ from community to community, the cost of policing and other emergency services have notably impacted the bottom line, with property taxes on residential and commercial lots constituting their main resource of revenues.
Top municipal leaders have long lobbied the province for changes in the municipal financing in the face of rising costs connected to housing, community safety and climate change with its effects on infrastructure. In January 2022, the province and the Union of British Columbia Municipalities agreed to review the current system.