There seemed to be a lot of self-congratulations and back-slapping of each other as the North Vancouver City Councilors and Mayor approved a massive 3.98% property tax increase for 2021. This is almost four times Canada’s inflation rate of 1.02% in 2020. The Mayor thanked and congratulated City staffers “for keeping the tax increase under 4%”.
Really? Why aren’t taxes coming down? They could be, with the increased number of taxable units in NVC.
I watched all three hours, fourteen minutes and twenty-nine seconds of the March 8 Council meeting and NOT ONCE was there a discussion on how to keep people’s taxes down or reduce them. There was a 10-second mention by Mayor Linda Buchanan about how some people may have been negatively impacted by Covid-19, but that thought seemed to be very fleeting.
There was zero discussion or concern about how taxpayers’ businesses, jobs, bank accounts and/or incomes have been affected over the past year due to the Covid-19 pandemic and government lock-downs. No mention of the devastating social, health and economic effects of the government policies.
Instead, Council is fast-tracking several of the all-encompassing, awfully expensive and, I would say, unneeded projects. Projects that will reshape the entire city and make getting around the roadways even more difficult.
This Council and Mayor must go. We must be sure they are not re-elected in 2022. Mayor Buchanan even said, “A 3.98% tax increase in the City of North Vancouver is not unprecedented and is reasonable.” The truth… 2019 was the only time the tax increase was at or above 4% at an increase of 4.25%; however, in the last decade, only and only 2015 & 2016 saw increases more than 3.5% at 3.9%, while 2011, 2013 & 2017 saw increases of 3% or more.
So the Mayor’s comment accentuates my point that taxes are out of control and they are not attempting to do anything about it. Talk about out of touch with reality! 2020’s tax increase is four times the rate of inflation during the most devastating economic hit from Covid-19 and this is “reasonable”?
Using the Canadian government “Inflation calculator” $1,000 back in 2011 today would cost you $1,176.12; however, $1,000 in taxes in NVC in 2011 now cost you over $1,600. This is complete lack of control on spending and complete incompetency by our City staffers and City councils.
The NVC increase is on the back of a five-million-dollar grant of our Provincial tax dollars to the City. The Mayor even opined about the hope for more of our tax dollars from the Provincial government.
2.21% of the increase is “salaries” of City staff, twice that of inflation in 2020. It’s not clear to me what the individual salary increases have been for all the staffers and even how many have been hired during the pandemic, but on the surface there appears to be something strange that over half the tax increase is due to salary increases. This was the largest single increase in the budget.
The Mayor and Councilors also get a raise in 2021 with this budget. This while the expenditures for the RCMP are being reduced. What? Our population is increasing and they want to decrease funding to the police? Are these idiots going down the “defund the police” route of some other Cities (some of which have already reversed that stance)?
City staffers said; “We have an ambitious capital spending plan to achieve our goals.” In fact, the City is wanting to fast-track their “plans” and cut the time to accomplish these “goals” to 2030, only nine years from now. This will undoubtedly lead to much higher taxes in the coming years and destroy the ability to move about the City efficiently in your car.
The City is also adding staff fast and furious, including an environmental specialist, communications person and more. Do we really need more Tweets and Facebook posts? Councillor Hu said, “Good we could keep the increase down.” Another out-of-touch politician that needs to be fired at the next election.
When we look at the expenditures of the City, we need to ask; “What is it we NEED” and what do we expect from our taxes?
For me: Police; a solid and efficient road system; and infrastructure, schools and sanitation. There are probably a couple more I could come up with, but I can tell you that I do not need the City giving out “grants” of our tax dollars. If these are worthy causes, I’m sure the people involved can raise the money from private and/or corporate donors. When our taxes are skyrocketing, we need fiscal responsibility, not haphazard spending on pet projects!
As part of the upcoming expenditures, City staffer Andrew Devlin suggested “reclaiming our streets back” and “getting rid of some blacktopped streets”. These plans will destroy NVC! Another quote is that he wants “a new class framework” for the City streets. Clearly, it’s people like this that are part of the huge problem we have at City Hall (he needs to be fired or at the very least, told his “vision” is not acceptable). It’s virtually common knowledge that Mayor Buchanan is very “anti-car” in the City; however, showing more hypocrisy, she receives about $10,000 a year in a tax-funded car allowance and her own private parking spot at City Hall.
I’ve only talked about a few of the projects and problems that I see in NVC that City and Councillors are moving quickly forward on. But with more and more “taxable units” each year, a 1.74% increase in 2020, why are we not seeing economies of scale and efficiencies coming into play? We should be able to have the reduction in taxes if the Mayor & Councillors directed the City staffers to do so. But that isn’t on their radar at all. And please remember, each year’s taxes are compounding every year on all the previous years. This is not a static increase!
It’s time the taxpayers of North Vancouver stand up and be heard! It’s time we tell our “elected officials” and City staff that it’s time to reverse this never-ending cycle of compounding tax increases year after year! This Mayor and Council must not be re-elected in 2022!
Tony Neumeyer has lived most of his life on the North Shore, and is interested and involved in local civic issues. Views expressed in this column are his own and may not necessarily reflect those of this publication.