Victoria councillor says tax rates ‘too low’ as city approves 7.93% increase

Victoria councillor says tax rates ‘too low’ as city approves 7.93% increase
Nicholas Pescod
Victoria city hall is pictured in this file photo.

Victoria council has finalized the city’s tax increase for the year, landing at 7.93 per cent for 2024.

At a meeting Thursday, Victoria council approved the city’s five-year financial plan, which has its sights set on a roughly 53 per cent tax increase for the 2024-2028 draft financial plan.

City staff noted at the meeting that municipalities are required to adopt a five-year financial plan, but specific tax increases for each year must be approved annually.

Most councillors and the mayor approved of the tax increase on Thursday in a 7-2 vote.

Mayor Marianne Alto and Councillors Susan Kim, Dave Thompson, Jeremy Caradonna, Matt Dell, Chris Coleman and Krista Loughton approved the draft financial plan.

Councillors Stephen Hammond and Marg Gardiner were opposed.

Divergent views

At the meeting, Caradonna said he believed the city had created a “balanced budget,” saying that it was line with other municipalities on the Island and that much of the tax increase was due to inflation and rising policing costs.

“…less than one per cent is some new spending related to our strategic priorities,” he said.

“So I think all things considered, the cost escalation, the high interest, the difficult economic environment we find ourselves in the post-pandemic period, I think we’ve kept the taxes as low as we reasonably can while continuing to invest in the things this community cares about.”

But other councillors had dramatic words for the tax increase.

‘Think the tax rate is too low’

At the meeting, Kim said she approved of the five-year financial plan, with one reservation.

“The only thing I can’t support about this is that I think the tax rate is too low,” she said.

“I’ve said this before and I’m going to say this again, we as public government are the vehicle to transfer wealth to people who need it most, and I believe this is a lost opportunity, as every year prior has been.”

Kim said she looks forward to debating the tax increase next year, with her eyes set on upping the tax rate as much as possible in Victoria.

“Listen, pundits, take this away – I’ll aim for a 90, 95, 99 per cent tax lift, take it away,” she said, “We’ll see you then.”

Kim’s position was in stark contrast to Gardiner, who opposed this year’s tax increase.

She said the city should try to “stop program creep” and said that the council has heard that residents would rather see reduced services than tax increases.

SEE ALSO: Victoria council 25% pay increase paused, decision passed to independent task force

Gardiner added that she thought there was room to “shave” on the budget “a little bit, not much,” but enough to send a message to the community.

“We need to embrace the objective of council not allowing property tax to dramatically outpace inflation,” she said. “We can start by returning to the past commitment to inflation plus one.”

This year, Langford is eyeing a 12.4 per cent tax increase, while Nanaimo is in the area of 6.4 per cent.

Meanwhile, smaller communities are projecting an even bigger rise, with Regional District of Nanaimo is considering a 13.5 per cent increase for properties from Cedar to north of Qualicum Beach, while residents of the Nanoose Bay area could see a tax hike of 17.5 per cent.

READ MORE: Vancouver Island property tax increases projected to be higher than normal

With files from CHEK’s Kendall Hanson

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