Vancouver passes new budget with 10.7% property tax increase

Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim speaks during a news conference on Feb. 5. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim speaks during a news conference on Feb. 5. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press - image credit)

The City of Vancouver passed its latest budget Tuesday evening with a 10.7 per cent increase to the average property tax — a record high this century.

The city's original draft budget laid out an increase of 9.7 per cent, but Mayor Ken Sim announced an amendment to increase that number on Tuesday.

"I know increases like this are hard," the mayor said during a news conference hours before the budget passed. "Frankly, it sucks."

Sim, who was sworn in last November, said the hike is necessary to improve core city services like policing, fire services, road work, sanitation and infrastructure maintenance.

Specific amendments that increased the property tax by an extra percentage point included:

  • $4.19 million to Vancouver Fire Rescue Services to fund 33 new positions

  • $600,000 to increase grass and plant maintenance

  • $300,000 to engineering services to increase road maintenance and pothole repair

  • $180,000 for cleaning grants to support plazas and parklets

  • $110,000 to the Vancouver Public Library to hire one person to train staff in crisis prevention and intervention

Council also approved a number of budget requests from the Vancouver Police Department (VPD), bringing its operating budget in 2023 to $401.8 million.

The city said the new budget will cost the owner of an average single family home approximately $470 more next year, while the owner of an average condo will pay an extra $150. The average business will pay approximately $670 more.

'100 days in office is not enough time'

The new budget was approved during council's first budget meeting later Tuesday, a week earlier than expected and the same afternoon the province unveiled its latest budget.

"The fact is, as a council we've just decided that we're going to try to be more efficient with with our time and with the time of the public," said ABC Vancouver Coun. Mike Klassen on The Early Edition, defending the tax hike.

He said the additional increases were necessary to fund core promises of the successful ABC election campaign.

"The fact is we weren't taking care of our gardens, we had so many potholes. Our streets are not clean and our garbage is overflowing and our collection services were not what they should be," said Klassen.

At the same time, he acknowledged that the ABC Vancouver pledges to find efficiencies in the city's budget have so far not come to pass.

"It's not the budget that I was looking for when I ran for city council," he said.

"I can tell you right now, we're absolutely committed to making sure that we're going to find those efficiencies. 100 days in office was not enough time, but we're definitely going to make sure that over the next years we're going to bring those levels down."

(Mostly) unanimous votes

Ultimately, the main portion of the budget passed unanimously, with opposition councillors agreeing with Sim's premise that basic services needed more funding.

"It's important to realize this is a hard budget for taxpayers. It is a higher budget than we have seen certainly in my four terms on council and it's there for a reason," said Coun. Adriane Carr, who ultimately supported the budget, despite councillors voting against her amendment that would fund a previous motion asking staff to look at helping fund a lawsuit against big oil companies.

The only note of dissent came from Coun. Christine Boyle, who voted against the further increases to the VPD budget.

"This is a significant increase — far, far beyond increases we're seeing in any other department," said Boyle.

"We need to have a broader conversation about the investments we're making in community safety, and how best we can invest public dollars with the most impact."