Saturday, November 21, 2009

UBC Residents to pay bigger tax bill this year?

As a result of an agreement between UBC and Metro Vancouver in the mid-1990s that paved the way for development at UBC, university town residents may well be seeing big jumps in the UBC Levy, the portion of 'property taxes' paid in the university neighbourhood areas.

The service levy, first applied to Hampton Place residents as a term of their lease, was designed to cover UBC's costs for providing a range of municipal-like services to residents living in the new housing developments on campus. As housing expanded from Hampton to fill in the parking lots in the mid-campus area (now known as Hawthorn Place) the service levy morphed and, by the date of the 2000 GVRD/UBC Memorandum of Understanding, the ubc service levy was being presented as the tax base upon which the proposed society (University Neighbourhoods Association - UNA) would manage municipal-like services for residents on behalf of UBC.

Leasehold residents in the University Town (UNA) area pay a rural provincial property tax (which includes school taxes, among other things) and the UBC Service levy. The total of these two 'taxes' are set to the Vancouver municipal tax rate (note, the UEL residents have a different deal and have consistently fought to keep their equivalent fee down). Here's where the problem starts to emerge. Vancouver has been retrogressively shifting the tax burden from business properties to residential properties (the trend established by the NPA has been continued by the erstwhile left-liberal Vision Vancouver council). Plus, Vancouver City has picked up a huge Olympic debt load. Taken together it is being suggested that Vancouver residents will end up facing a 4.1% tax increase this coming year (plus facing serious cutbacks to services).

To make matters worse, Metro Vancouver is itself predicting that home owners will face a 50% increase in their taxes (with service cuts) over the next five years.

The long and short of it is that University Town residents may be paying bigger tax bills this year and we have little opportunity to say anything about it. The decisions being made about property taxes are happening in jurisdictions like the City of Vancouver, who have no responsibility to our local concerns.

It's time that decisions that directly affect our community are made by our community directly; not by non-elected university administrators, or city councilors who will never have to face us in an election. It's time for an autonomous government that has the power to make local decisions that count.

No comments: