Municipalities right to look beyond property tax: BC Chamber

B.C.’s municipal leaders are on the right track with some portions of its plan to reform local government finance, says the head of the BC ...

B.C.’s municipal leaders are on the right track with some portions of its plan to reform local government finance, says the head of the BC Chamber of Commerce.

“With B.C.’s infrastructure deficit placing significant costs at local governments’ doors, it’s great to see UBCM (Union of B.C. Municipalities ) taking a serious look at local governments’ financial sustainability,” chamber president and CEO John Winter said in a statement.

The plan is being discussed today at the annual UBCM convention. There are several weaknesses in the way local governments are currently funded, including a reliance on property taxes, which do not grow with the economy, distribute costs fairly or respond quickly enough to economic change, according to the report.

The UBCM report notes that municipalities will face billions of dollars in infrastructure upgrades – required by federal and provincial legislation – over the next 10 to 15 years.

The BC Chamber of Commerce says it supports the report’s call for local governments to become more focused on:

  • facilitating economic growth;
  • recognizing that property tax is unsustainable as a funding mechanism for local government; and
  • calling for a dialogue with business over property tax.

But Winter warned local governments must also reign in spending.

“As cost pressures increase, local governments need to commit fiercely to cost control, spending discipline and project prioritization,” he said.

Some of the UBCM's recommendations include:

  • a three-way infrastructure model between municipalities and senior governments, with each level paying one-third of the cost of infrastructure projects;
  • returning TransLink to public control, with a more secure funding model;
  • allowing municipalities to have greater flexibility over the design of development cost charges; and
  • forming partnerships with the provincial government to save costs and improve services.

jstdenis@biv.com

@jenstden

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