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Vancouver passes budget with extra 0.5 per cent tax for overdose crisis

Property tax for 2017 will go up by 3.9 per cent, after city council decides extra funding is needed to fight B.C.'s deadly overdose crisis

Vancouver city council passed its 2017 budget with a 3.9 per cent property tax increase

Eric Dredger

Vancouver city council passed its 2017 budget with a 3.9 per cent property tax increase

Vancouver city council has passed its 2017 budget, with an extra property tax hike of 0.5 per cent to deal with the city’s overdose crisis.

Property tax will be going up by 3.9 per cent this year, higher than the 3.4 per cent increase originally proposed. For a median single family home in the city, the 3.9 per cent increase will result in $83 being added to the property tax bill instead of the previously proposed 3.4 per cent, or $72, increase.

A median condo owner will pay $29 more in property tax and a median business property would pay $152 more.

The 0.5 per cent addition amounts to $11 a year more for a single family home owner, $19 for a business property owner and $4 more for a condo owner.

Last week fire fighters had lobbied council for additional resources, saying crews stationed at Firehall No. 2 in the Downtown Eastside have been overwhelmed by the number of calls related to overdoses. Firefighters responded to 735 overdoses in that neighbourhood in November alone.

Overdoses have killed 622 British Columbians so far in 2016, with the number expected to climb higher as the crisis worsens. Synthetic opioids like fentanyl and the more powerful carfentanil are now often added to drugs like cocaine and heroin, causing more overdoses and increasing the chance that those overdoses will be fatal without immediate intervention.

The additional 0.5 per cent increase is expected to raise $3.5 million, which can be added to a $4 million contingency fund for a total of $7.5 million. That money will go towards a range of city initiatives, including increased overdose response training for city staff, a new community policing station in Strathcona, youth education and a drug treatment study. The memo includes the fire fighters’ ask for an additional three-person medic crew, at a cost of $1.8 million.

NPA Coun. George Affleck voted against the budget, characterizing the $3.5 million as a “Vision Vancouver slush fund.”

“It’s a fund to be used at the will of the council, which has a majority of Vision Vancouver. Today, it’s fentanyl — what will it be next week, or in an election year?”

Affleck said he favoured using existing unused funds from the 2016 budget, or challenging the federal and provincial governments to match $300,000 from the city.

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