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Vancouver considers 2.3 per cent property tax hike for 2016

Vancouver is proposing a 2.3 per cent property tax increase as part of its 2016 operating budget as it prepares to replace fire boats and trucks, add parks and reduce building permit waiting times.

Last Thursday the city released its draft budget and five-year financial plan, saying the proposed tax increase is in line with inflation forecast by the Conference Board of Canada.

The proposed $1.264-billion operating budget and $325.2-million capital budget include a number of programs aimed at fixing up older social housing, taking more action on the Vision Vancouver council's greenest city plan, and reducing homelessness.

The budget also acts on some long overdue projects, including upgrading Burrard Bridge, construction of the Killarney Seniors Centre, and consultation on the delayed Marpole-Oakridge community centre.

The city is proposing investing $11.6 million in "new and enhanced services" including:

· $2.8 million to "enhance public realm cleanliness."

· $2.1 million to hire 11 staff to clear away a massive backlog in building permit waiting times

· $1.9 million for new fire boats and trucks and digital evidence software for the Vancouver Police Department

· $1 million for the park board's OneCard recreation program registration process

In capital spending, the city is putting $59 million toward transportation, heavy on the Burrard Bridge upgrades and expanding cycling and walking networks. It has earmarked more than $39 million for public space improvements, including the $9.1 million upgrade of the Vancouver Art Gallery's north plaza. (The province may contribute to that project.) It is also looking to start design of the first phase of a massive redevelopment of the Britannia Community Centre, as well as work to Hillcrest and Riley parks.

On the social housing and child care fronts, the city expects to spend over $30.5 million on a number of projects, including capital grants to non-profit housing providers to upgrade Single Room Occupancy hotels they own; renewal of Roddan Lodge and Evelyne Saller Centre, new child care spaces in several public schools and social housing in both Southeast False Creek and the new River District.

The proposed budget has been posted to the city's website. The city will also hold a "budget dialogue session" on Nov. 30 at the Vancouver Public Library downtown before sending the document to a special city council meeting Dec. 9. A final council vote is expected Dec. 15.

Source: Jeff Lee, Vancouver Sun