The Union of B.C. Municipalities was united Wednesday in supporting a position paper calling for the province to share revenue that comes from new growth with the cities and towns that help B.C. prosper.
Al Richmond, co-chair of a select committee on local government finance, said in a telephone conference call that the current property tax structure can’t handle future pressures, especially as costly infrastructure projects pile up.
The UBCM position paper, Strong Fiscal Futures: A Blueprint for Strengthening B.C. Local Governments’ Finance System, got unanimous support from delegates at the organization’s convention in Vancouver, he said.
The paper was the result of the committee hearing from more than 300 UBCM members, as well as business and industry complaining that taxes are too high.
The position paper is an invitation for the province to sit down with the UBCM and find solutions that would help local government come up with new sources of revenue and revenue sharing, he said.
Richmond said the committee met with Premier Christy Clark last week. She was “quite receptive,” he said.
“We believe they are open to talking about how to resolve the issues. Part of the paper deals with how to grow the economy for British Columbians,” he said.
“What our members want is a new source of taxation that doesn’t make us dependent on property-based taxation.”
He gave as an example, a senior living next to a working family, both in homes of equal value.
The senior has less ability to pay taxes than a two-income household next door, he said.
Some places in the U.S. use income tax or sales tax as a basis for municipal tax levels, he added.
As for the province sharing any new tax revenue from growth, Richmond said it would be like sharing a part of the sales tax, not an increase in taxation.
“We’re cognizant of not removing revenue from the province.”
Money from new tax revenue could be put into an infrastructure bank for municipalities to access, just as they access federal gas tax funds that are fed through the province and administered by the UBCM.