ELECTION 2018: Challenges ahead for Victoria taxpayers
No matter that it’s a municipal election year, the insatiable need for more tax revenue beyond inflation continues unabated at the City of Victoria with repercussions for homeowners, businesses and the 60,000 renters in the Victoria CMA.
That said, council has seen fit to reduce its proposed overall property tax for this year to 2.61 for the city municipal portion that’s inclusive of water, stormwater, and solid waste. It also includes VicPd increases of 4.54 (subject to the approval of Esquimalt which contributes to costs). The proposed CRD requisition will increase 2.92 per cent for shared regional services.
Meanwhile, the city is enjoying increased revenue from an unprecedented construction boom. The city is sitting on about a $1 billion worth of assets, some of which could be sold to moderate taxes. The city is increasingly challenging for the poor and the working poor, seniors and young families. Businesses usually are forced to pass along any increases to the cost of goods and services, and in particular, contributing to unaffordable housing.
City council is urged to not contribute to the high cost of living by finding innovative ways of holding the line on tax increases.
- City of Victoria’s contribution to the CRD is $22 million, now about 10 per cent of the budget.
With inflation at less than two per cent, how on earth can council justify asking taxpayers for a 2.64 per cent increase in the cost per household for 2018? What really does the city get for $22 million? How can CRD directors make the CRD more fiscally accountable?
- In 2018, it’s projected that city staff will be absent on sick leave for 40,000 hours, which equates to about 5,000 days, or 21 person years. When multiplied by average salary/benefits of an estimated $100,000, it amounts to about $2.1 million, a significant portion of city expenditures and almost 1 per cent of the operating budget (2018 Preliminary Budget, Human Resources, Performance Metrics, page 578, 2018).
How does this compare to other comparable municipalities and the private sector? What other innovative measures can be taken to further drive down these costs? Why can’t 40,000 hours be improved on?
- Corporate costs are running at about 16 per cent of the budget or $37 million. In any good service organization, overhead costs should be around 8 per cent (although some costs appear to be showing up in standardized services such as storm water and the waterworks).
How does the City reconcile the difference? Is there innovative ways of reducing overhead costs? Do we need 15 staff in the department of engagement and 102 in finance? Can the real estate and legal duties be outsourced?
- VicPD has the highest number of police per 100,000 population for any Canadian municipality (Victoria/Esquimalt), the lowest number of residents per police officer for any Canadian municipality with a population exceeding 100,000 (Victoria/Esquimalt), and the highest cost per capita for policing of all the other municipal police departments.
Policing consumes about 23% of every municipal tax dollar spent and is increasingly taking on social service-related roles for the region. This compares to New Westminster (15.7% in 2017) and Vancouver (19.4% in 2015)e crime metrics are dropping significantly this last decade. How is this sustainable? Has the city considered the need for either a regional police force or at least a “sub regional” municipal force to police the five municipalities currently policed by four municipal departments? Police Per 100,000 in Canada >>
City crime rate trends downwards, Grumpy Taxpayer$, Press Release, 13 Nov. 2017.
Taxpayers disappointed in Victoria’s proposed election budget, Grumpy Taxpayer$, 1 Nov. 2017.
How many municipalities does it take to screw in a light bulb?, Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce, Nov. 2018.
Grumpy Taxpayer$ is a non-profit, unaffiliated, non-partisan, citizen’s advocacy group dedicated to lower taxes, less waste, and more accountable municipal government. DONATE & JOIN US?