“Relative to income, municipal expenditures are, in today’s era, as low as they were in the 1950s” (McMillan & Dahlby, 2014, p.1).
“BC has relatively low municipal (and overall) residential property taxes, compared to other Canadian jurisdictions” (Expert Panel on B.C.’s Business Tax Competitiveness, 2012, p. 52).
“Statistics collected by the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development confirm that operating expenditures by municipalities across British Columbia have been increasing consistently in recent years, even when adjusted for population growth and inflation. The explanation for this trend is not that spending is “out of control”. The explanation, instead, relates to the need and demand for services. Put simply, local government expenditures have increased in recent years in response to the demands and needs of communities for important local services. Expenditure increases can also be attributed, in part, to the rising cost of key service inputs, and to service and regulatory initiatives taken by senior governments that result in additional responsibilities and net costs being downloaded onto municipal governments” (UBCM, 2011, p. 1).
“Recently municipal costs have been growing …. In many cases, these costs are driven by decisions that are outside the direct control of a municipality and require some form of collaborative action with other governments” (Expert Panel on B.C.’s Business Tax Competitiveness, 2012, p.52).
Taxes provide the greatest benefit to moderate and low income citizens. At the federal level, this is clearly illustrated in a tax reduction that results in cuts to childcare funding. Better off citizens will still be able to afford childcare without a subsidy, while the moderate and lower income citizens will keenly feel the effect. Another example is universal healthcare: Wealthier citizens can afford to purchase private healthcare, while universal healthcare opens healthcare options to moderate and lower income citizens as well.
Low taxes provide the greatest benefit to businesses as businesses assume a higher responsibility (relative to property values) for tax payments. Low taxes also provide more disposable income for citizens.
Low taxes frequently shift more responsibility onto volunteer organizations to deliver the services that government will need to cut (with a reduction in taxes) or cannot deliver as a result of insufficient revenue.
Lower taxes also have an impact on spending on the environment. Municipalities in B.C. are legislated to develop and implement plans and actions to reduce carbon emissions and other strategies to protect the environment. Without transfers from other levels of government, the responsibility of paying for these initiatives lies with property taxes. Initiatives to protect the environment are often one of the few areas that local governments feel they can cut.
It is your right to make Council aware of your priorities, whether you value more parks, or reserves for infrastructure, or an age-friendly community, or low taxes. Attend budget meetings, learn about the process, understand the issues and the challenges, and let your Council know.
Taxes are a means for people to accomplish together what they cannot do individually.