But Sidney holds the line on property taxes –
Apr. 1, 2016 – While the ability of many regional taxpayers to pay their property taxes is under stress, Sidney taxpayers got some good news from their town council.

In Sidney the draft financial plan for 2016 started out with a general tax increase of 2.72 per cent. This was a starting point for budget deliberations but after hearing from the public and business, council decided to reduce the tax impact to 0.81 per cent. There was no increase in utilities.

Meanwhile most other regional taxpayers face tax rate increases of two or three or four hundred per cent more than current inflation of 1.9 per cent.

In some jurisdictions steep increases in the draft financial plans around the region are under consideration while various studies and reports suggest taxpayer’s ability to pay is under considerable stress.

SENIOR POVERTY TIME BOMB –  The vast majority of Canadians retiring without an employer pension plan have totally inadequate retirement savings, says a report by the Broadbent Institute. Among all Canadians ages 55 to 64 without pensions, half have only enough savings to last for one year. Income trends suggest the percentage of Canadian seniors living in poverty will increase in the coming years, especially for single women who already face a higher than average rate.

MEDICAL SERVICE PREMIUMS UNPAID – B.C. is waiting on $462-million worth of unpaid Medical Service Plan payments, according to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. The Liberals have doubled the rates since elected and in the past five years rates have gone up 40 per cent. The CTF says 850,000 bills are at least 31 days overdue, and the bulk of  that, $418 million, comes from payments that are more than 90 days overdue. The government has conceded there’s room for improvement in the collection system.

TAX ASSESSMENT HIKES – Nearly 1,900 home owners in Greater Victoria received letters from B.C. Assessment warning of higher than average increases to their property values this year (15 per cent or more). The assessed value reflects what the organization believes a property is worth as of July 1, 2015 and so do not reflect increases since then.

SHORT OF MONEY – Incredibly, almost 40 per cent of Canadian homeowners say they have found themselves short of money to cover their monthly mortgage expenses at least once in the past year, turning to debt, cashing in savings or borrowing from family to pay the bills, according to a Nov. 2015 survey by Manulife of Canada. This is of particular concern in the Victoria region considering housing costs are among Canada’s highest. Mortgage rates may be close to historical lows now, but interest rates are broadly predicted to start increasing in 2016.

LESS CHARITY GIVING – British Columbians have become less generous in the last five years, continuing what has been a decades-long trend, according to the Fraser Institute in their annual survey released in December. Fraser’s most up-to-date figures show the number of B.C. tax filers who donated to charity – as high as 30 per cent a generation ago – has dipped to 20 per cent.

PAYDAY LOANS SOARING – Vancity is worried that the payday loan industry is thriving in B.C., and use of the high-fee loans has climbed 58 per cent between 2012 and 2014. The credit union notes B.C. has a soaring cost of living, along with the highest rate of working-age people living in poverty, and says those factors may contribute to the sharp increase in the loans. According to the study, 198,000 people – about 5.5 per cent of adults in B.C. – used payday loans that are restricted to service charges of 23 per cent of the amount borrowed. $