Some Richmondites are feeling frustrated and stressed about the city council’s decision to increase property taxes by 5.68 per cent.
The Richmond Community Coalition (RCC), a municipal political party, is conducting an online survey asking Richmondites what they think of the property tax increase recently approved by council.
City councillors voted 5-3 in favour of the 2021 operating budget in January, which includes hiring an additional 16 RCMP police officers, 12 additional firefighters and 11 new municipal workers to support the RCMP detachment.
Richmond City Coun. Chak Au, a member of RCC, told the Richmond News the ongoing pandemic has added an extra layer of financial uncertainty for most Richmondites and that hiring more police officers isn’t a priority for the city.
“According to Statistics Canada, Richmond has a decent officer-to-population ratio among all municipalities. Police officers aren’t that urgently needed in the city,” said Au.
Couns. Bill McNulty, Harold Steves, Alexa Loo, Linda McPhail and Mayor Malcolm Brodie supported the tax increase. Au, along with Couns. Michael Wolfe and Carol Day voted against it.
This 5.68-per-cent increase is the highest in the last decade in Richmond and the highest among all municipalities within Metro Vancouver this year, said Richmondite Sheldon Starrett, the spokesperson for RCC.
Vancouver City Council approved a five-per-cent tax hike in December while Surrey kept theirs at about 2.9 per cent.
The online survey has received more than 1,000 responses so far, and many of them express frustration and stress concerning the tax increase, according to Starrett.
“A lot of homeowners and small business owners feel they are in a difficult situation, and some of them said the increase will negatively impact their tenants - whether they are residential or commercial tenants. A lot of people feel city council is detached from the struggles of the real world that everyone else is facing,” said Starrett.
For people who just got back on their feet and are trying to regain huge financial losses due to the pandemic, this tax increase is unexpected and seems a bit unfair, added Starrett.
Starrett said they aim to release the full results of the survey by mid-March through hosting a virtual town hall meeting and he welcomes more people to participate in the survey.
RCC split from Richmond First, established itself as a non-partisan party whose goals include increased public political engagement. Some local community activists have joined the group.
Last year, council deferred hiring more police in order to reduce property tax hikes, but the original plan was to hire 51 new police and 36 new firefighters, as well as municipal staff to support them, between 2019 and 2021.
The 2021 tax hike will cover hiring these emergency personnel – both the deferred 2020 contingent and the ones planned for 2021.