Policy Session Digs Into Finance Study

Delegates heard from the authors of a blueprint to renew the finance system for local government in a Tuesday policy session. Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard said that while the system was strong at the present, demands coming over the next 10-20 years would expose weaknesses in the system.

“The main weakness is the property tax,” said Leonard. “It is poorly responsive to economic growth and loads a disproportionate amount of taxes onto lower income groups. Without change, property taxes will become unaffordable for many British Columbians.” Leonard also advised that the improving the system would require looking at both revenues and expenditures to find long-term solutions.

Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore said one of the first priorities of potential discussions with the province should be safeguarding system features that are working well. Moore also said that cost savings could be achieved by looking at external drivers and promoting local government best practices. The report also proposes the development of revenue tools that respond to economic growth. “The concept is to help the province grow the economy, and share in the benefits of that economic growth,” said Moore.

Delegates will consider the report during the resolutions session Wednesday morning. If endorsed, UBCM will approach the Province of BC to seek formal discussions.

In a news release Monday, the BC Chamber of Commerce applauded the report. “With B.C.'s infrastructure deficit placing significant costs at local governments' doors, it's great to see UBCM taking a serious look at local governments' financial sustainability,” said John Winter, the BC Chamber's president and CEO. Winter cautioned that some of the report's funding ideas may not win backing from the business community, but commended the overarching effort to launch a dialogue.

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