A call is going out for a meeting with the premier and her cabinet from the province’s mayors on how the tax pie should be divvied up.
Municipal politicians from the recently convened B.C. Mayors’ Caucus unanimously agreed — after a three-day meeting in Penticton last week — that a new deal was needed between senior levels of government and the municipalities.
Currently, local governments receive only eight per cent of the total public tax revenues, while the province receives 42 per cent and the federal government gets 50 per cent of taxes, according to a press release issued by the mayors.
But the municipalities own nearly two thirds of Canada’s core public infrastructure — and are tasked with the cost of maintaining it.
“From our perspective, since we are dealing with province-wide issues, there must be a way of us working in cooperation and coordination with (them),” said Trail Mayor Dieter Bogs, one of five Greater Trail mayors who attended the meetings.
The province’s municipalities are now solely dependent on property taxes to run operations — with more duties being downloaded every year — and a new deal is needed, Bogs added.
As a result, the Mayors’ Caucus requested “immediate discussion on the efficient use of existing resources to better address the challenges” the residents faced.
With 86 mayors in attendance, there were mayors from municipalities of just over 400 people to Vancouver’s Mayor Gregor Robertson represented.
The one common theme amongst them all was everyone was in the same boat, said Rossland Mayor Greg Granstrom, it just depended on the size of the ship.
And all of those mayors had the same question, he said: What are the core services a municipality is expected to provide?
“When we are asked to provide more to our core service, currently we have to take that money out of property taxes,” Granstrom said.
“If the provincial and federal governments wish to continue to download authority … then they should buck up. We just can’t continue to have services thrust on us without any funding bump.”
Fruitvale Mayor Patricia Cecchini agreed.
“It’s time that we stood up as a unit to have our voice heard at the provincial government level,” she said. “And it will be effective. We are the people who listen, who have direct contact to the citizens of each community, so they will have to stand up and listen to that.”
The caucus also called for a premier’s roundtable with the mayors’ caucus to discuss public policy changes that affect local government budgets, replacing the ad hoc granting process with a sustainable one, and expanding the mandate of the Municipal Auditor General to include an examination of the financial impacts of downloading on local governments.
Cities, towns and regional districts are responsible for transportation, police and fire services, water, sewage and garbage, recreation and culture, land-use planning, public health and animal control.
In a press release issued by the caucus, it was noted that as other levels of government reduce services, more of the core social services are now falling to local governments to provide because there is no ability to download to another level of government.
The caucus will meet annually with the next gathering in September at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Victoria.