City of Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart has written to B.C. Premier John Horgan and Finance Minister Carole James to request the provincial “school tax” on $3 million-plus homes be overturned – despite the mayor himself voting in council chambers to keep it.
Vancouver city council voted last week 7-3 in support of Councillor Rebecca Bligh’s motion to request that the much-debated tax be scrapped, rather than being implemented in January. Mayor Stewart was one of the three council members who voted against the motion, having publicly backed the school tax in his mayoral campaign platform. The other votes to keep the tax were cast by Councillors Jean Swanson of COPE and Christine Boyle of OneCity.
Following the council vote December 12, Mayor Stewart said that he would write the letter requested of him by the successful motion, and did so December 14.
The new annual property tax surcharge is due to begin in January 2019 and applies to B.C. homes above $3 million. It is billed at an annual 0.2 per cent of a home’s assessed value between $3 million and $4 million (totalling, for example, $2,000 a year for a $4 million home) and an additional 0.4 per cent of the home’s value above $4 million (an additional $4,000 per million of assessed value). The tax is payable each year but can be deferred by seniors and some other exceptions.
Those who have opposed the school tax have argued that it is unfair to those who have seen their properties increase in value but have not had an increase in income that will help them pay the tax, and that it will result in a dramatic annual tax hike for many, some of whom are on fixed incomes.
The City of Vancouver is also planning to raise municipal property taxes by 4.9 per cent in 2019. The letter to the housing minister expresses concern that the additional school tax “represents an encroachment on the City of Vancouver municipal tax base” and could cause problems with municipal tax payments.
"Residents could perceive the increase on their property tax bill is a result of municipal financial mismanagement and thus could 'revolt' against the City of Vancouver property tax increases," Stewart wrote in the letter.
See the full text of the letter below.