Friday, September 26, 2014

Tax rates, UNA funding, and alternative solutions

UNA residents pay a two tier property tax.  The first portion, the BC rural tax is set and collected by the Province of BC.  The second portion, the UBC Service Levy, is set by an agreement between UBC and the GVRD that fixes the levy as the amount that is equal to the Vancouver residential property tax mill rate minus the BC rural tax mill rate.  The service levy is legally enforced by a provision of all of our UNA area leases.

Because the UBC Service Levy is contingent upon the rate of Vancouver's residential property tax the UNA has no fiscal control or certainty in the medium to long term.  Keep in mind that the UNA's budget comes totally from the UBC Service Levy.  NONE of the rural tax revenue comes to the UNA.  The result is that the UNA's tax revenues are ultimately set by the City of Vancouver.

Many of the discussion about UNA tax revenue has focussed on the service levy rate and it's relationship to Vancouver property taxes.  But Vancouver is not the only issue here: the province's rural tax rate is a major issue for us.  For example, the rural tax includes a tax for policing.  However, the net effect is that our 8,000-10,000 residents pay a lion's share of police and fire tax for the 50,000+ daytime UBC population.  Another example, most of the UNA's residential roads are directly controlled by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI).  Our rural taxes include a portion for transportation and roads.  However, MoTI has refused to pay for the enforcement of parking infractions in our neighbourhoods that is caused by the commuters attracted to UBC and trying to avoid UBC's high parking charges.  Despite more than 7 months of negotiations (as reported in UNA Board Meeting Packages) the UNA is still required to pay for enforcement of parking regulations without having any of the tax revenue that would in fact pay for the enforcement.  In addition, the maintenance of most residential roads are a UBC development cost and a UNA maintenance cost.  Again, next to nothing is returned from UNA rural property taxes to the UNA to cover these current and future expenditures.

What can we do?  One thing that I think we need to consider is to begin discussion with the provincial government to return some portion of the rural tax to the UNA.  Take a look at the charges on your property tax bill.  Consider the categories.  Some of those categories are for services that the UNA and UBC must pay while receiving non of the rural tax revenues.  Perhaps we should spend a little less time lodging complaints against UBC and instead devote a bit of time focussing on the role the province plays as absentee landlord collecting 'rents' (i.e. our taxes) without investing any of that money back into our community.

What do you think?  Should the UNA open a dialogue with the province with the aim of recovering some of our rural taxes to spend in the UNA area?  Send me a note and I'll take your concerns to the October 14 UNA board meeting.

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