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NPA could vote down spending in Vision Vancouver city budget

NPA councillor is critical of property tax and city spending increases proposed for the 2018 budget

Vancouver Coun. George Affleck isn't happy about a proposed 3.9 per cent property tax increase.

Jennifer Gauthier / For Metro

Vancouver Coun. George Affleck isn't happy about a proposed 3.9 per cent property tax increase.

For the first time since Vision Vancouver came to power nearly a decade ago, the opposition Non-Partisan Association has a chance to vote down the capital spending portion of the city’s budget.
That’s the portion of the budget for major projects like a new outdoor pool, social housing, childcare spaces and roads. The proposed budget for capital projects this year is $448 million, out of the city’s total proposed budget of $1.4 billion.
“We’re listening to speakers and asking questions, and then ... we’ll be making our decision,” said NPA Coun. George Affleck in a Dec. 6 interview.

His party gained one more sitting councillor this fall during a by-election, when voters elected the NPA’s Hector Bremner following the resignation of Vision Coun. Geoff Meggs. The NPA now has four votes on council, Vision has six, and the Greens have one.

The capital funding portion of the budget requires a two-thirds majority on Dec. 12 to pass, meaning that eight "Yes" votes out of a total of 11 votes are required to pass the motion.

The fiscally-conservative NPA routinely criticizes both property tax and city spending increases: in 2014, Affleck was annoyed at a relatively modest 1.9 per cent property tax increase and 2.6 per cent spending increase. This year, the city is proposing to raise property tax by 3.9 per cent and spending by 6.2 per cent.
Including increases in utility fees, that translates to an extra $100 for the average single family homeowner and $93 for the average business.
“It’s a lot of money and all that money is coming from the taxpayers,” Affleck said, noting that the city is also planning to increase utility fees (water, sewer and garbage) by 7.9 per cent (topping the 6.1 per cent increase in 2017).
Recreation and other user fees could increase two per cent (the same increase as last year), while most permit fees may go up by nine per cent (in 2017, permit fees went up by two per cent.)
As Vancouverites continue to feel the hangover of a huge housing price spike in 2016 that sent both home prices and rent rates soaring, and contributed to increased rates of homelessness, the city has devoted much more of its budget to housing projects.
In 2017, the city budgeted $80 million for housing, double the $29.3 million in 2016. This year the city expects to spend $46.3 million of its capital budget on housing and $34.7 million of its operating budget to “address housing supply.”
Affleck believes the city’s increased levels of spending on health and housing are misplaced, and should be left to senior levels of government. Last year, his party was sharply critical of special 0.5 per cent increase in property taxes to fight the deadly opioid overdose crisis.
“What are our priorities in our city? In the charter, the priorities of the city are very clear: it’s garbage, streets, that kind of stuff,” Affleck said.
“We’re prioritizing it so much into housing and health care that you look at the streets budget, it’s only going up two per cent.”

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