Mayors and councillors are gathering in Whistler in September for their annual convention with B.C. cabinet ministers, just before they seek re-election in October. (Black Press files)

Payroll, speculation tax top municipal agenda for B.C.

Property tax hikes loom as local politicians seek re-election

The financial squeeze caused by doubling Medical Services Plan payroll costs next year is the top priority for local government leaders as they prepare for their annual meetings with B.C. cabinet ministers.

Imposition of the NDP government’s “employer health tax” for 2019, while municipalities and other employers are still carrying employee MSP premiums at a reduced rate for that year, are pushing up property taxes.

The Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in September will lead off with a resolution from Lower Mainland mayors and councillors, calling for the province to make the transition from MSP premiums to a payroll tax “cost neutral” for municipalities.

The resolution notes that municipalities with payrolls of more than $1.5 million will pay the highest rate of payroll tax, 1.95 per cent, effectively doubling their payroll costs for next year. It calls for “selected tax breaks” given to private sector organizations to be extended to cities and towns.

B.C. Finance Minister Carole James retreated on the payroll tax in July, announcing that school districts, health authorities and universities will still pay the tax, but their budgets from the province will be increased to cover the bump in costs until MSP premiums are phased out entirely in 2020.

RELATED: Non-profits, schools get break on health tax

But municipalities don’t get the break because they can raise revenues from their property tax break. Local politicians are gathering in Whistler for the UBCM convention Sept. 10-14, as most campaign for re-election to four-year terms in province-wide elections on Oct. 20.

Payrolls up to $500,000 are exempt from the health tax, and as part of her July remake, James also tripled the exemption for non-profit organizations to $1.5 million, letting almost all charitable organizations escape the tax.

For the NDP government, the health tax and a “speculation tax” on property value of second homes have been an ongoing battle since James introduced her first budget in February.

A resolution from Oak Bay calls for the province to let municipalities administer extra property taxes, and spend the money on “non-market housing” to help lower-income buyers and renters. Oak Bay is one of the B.C. communities where Albertans and Americans have sold vacation homes rather than pay tax.

RELATED: West Kelowna loses big development due to tax

The speculation tax was scaled back in March to exempt rural recreation properties.

The Gulf Islands, the Juan de Fuca region in Premier John Horgan’s constituency, Parksville and Qualicum Beach are being exempted. The municipalities of Nanaimo, Lantzville, Abbotsford, Chilliwack and Mission will still be included, as are the cities of Kelowna and West Kelowna, when the tax takes effect in 2019.

B.C. residents pay a lower rate rate for second homes in urban areas than owners from out of province or outside Canada. The tax takes effect on 2018 property value and stays at 0.5 per cent for B.C. residents with second homes. Residences that are rented out six months or more of the year will also be exempt from the tax, which was patterned after Vancouver’s “empty home tax” to discourage real estate speculators from pushing up prices.

Just Posted

Expect delays on Highway 1 west of Golden due to vehicle fire

Expect delays while driving Highway 1 between Golden and Revelstoke. Drive BC… Continue reading

Your weekly Mountain Minute

Golden’s weekly 60-secon news recap for February 14

Biologists discover another female calf in depleted South Purcell Mountain Caribou herd

Calf will be moved to Revelstoke maternity pens, then released

King and Spring return to Golden this weekend

The Snow King and Lady Spring return to the Valley this weekend,… Continue reading

Find out what the Golden community is up to

I hope that this column finds you someplace cozy and warm and… Continue reading

B.C. students win Great Waters Challenge video contest

Video, mural and song about saving the salmon claims the top prize

B.C. athlete takes home gold in freestyle aerials at Canada Games

Brayden Kuroda won the event with a combined score of 121.65.

Cabinet likely to extend deadline to reconsider Trans Mountain pipeline

The can’t decide the pipeline’s fate until a new round of consultations with Indigenous communities

B.C. government provides $75,000 towards salmon study

Study looks at abundance and health of Pacific salmon in Gulf of Alaska

Murdered and missing honoured at Stolen Sisters Memorial March in B.C.

‘We come together to make change within the systems in our society’

UBC researchers develop inexpensive tool to test drinking water

The tricoder can test for biological contamination in real-time

Disgraced ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner released from prison

He was convicted of having illicit online contact with a 15-year-old North Carolina girl in 2017

B.C. communities push back against climate change damages campaign

Activists copying California case that was tossed out of court

Most Read