Like most Richmond residents, I received my property tax notice last week and boy, what a shock did I get. My net taxes payable (after the homeowner and old-age discount) have increased this year by a whopping 14.5 per cent.
I spoke to my neighbour and her net taxes payable have gone up by a similar amount, so I started asking around at the pub. By far, the majority in my circle of acquaintances, who live in single-family dwellings, have also been hit with an increase in double digits including one pal whose net taxes have gone up by a massive 20 per cent!
I hadn't noticed a huge increase in my inflation adjusted CPP or OAS so I went onto the Statscan website, operated by the Government of Canada, and found that the consumer price index in British Columbia increased by 2.7 per cent from April 2010 to April 2011.
How can the City of Richmond justify an increase in property taxes of more than five times the consumer price index? I think most of us were expecting an increase in the range of two per cent to three per cent, which would take care of the annual pay increases and benefits enjoyed by our city workers. Surely the city employees didn't all receive increases in pay and benefits in double digits.
We never used to bother much about the assessed value of our property, which we were advised of every December or January, as the amount of tax to be paid would be determined by the "Mill Rate".
The Mill Rate (as I understood it) was fixed by a formula that included the annual city budget and the total assessed value of all the property within the city. Even if property values skyrocketed, as in 1981 for example, the Mill Rate would still even everything out and the tax increases would reflect the requirements of the city rather than the (often temporarily inflated) value of the property.
I bought this house new in 1979 and the net taxes payable that year were $279.14. In the last 32 years there have been innumerable improvements to the City of Richmond infrastructure including filling in ditches, road widening, running new sewer lines, and building new schools and fire halls, so it's not hard to see where my my tax money has been wisely invested over the years by the municipal and then city management.
However, during the last 10 years alone, my net property taxes have increased by more than 80 per cent. In this time there has been phenomenal growth in the city of Richmond with builders and developers supposedly paying for the cost of any local improvements required to supply services to new buildings. Are the existing homeowners subsidizing these new developments? Is the charge to developers insufficient to cover the cost of the required new services?
If so, it must be increased -- I would suggest slightly more than revenue neutral so that there's a little bit left over to put in the kitty for the replacement of aging infrastructure now and in the future.
Has something gone drastically wrong with the City of Richmond finances in the last couple of years that so much more money is needed? Have we been led astray as to the financial benefits we gained from the sale of "The Oval" lands? Did we in fact lose money on the Olympics like Vancouver did?
I'm sure that I, and my friends and neighbours, are not the only ones with over the top tax increases this year. Is there anything we can do about it at this point?