Why are our property taxes going up?
There are several reasons, and some of them started a long time ago.
1. All of our infrastructure has been built over the last 100 years, and if you own a house and a car, you know that you need to maintain it and at some point the time comes to replace it. We've kept adding asset after asset over the years, and have not sufficiently contributed to the maintenance, and especially to the capital replacement of these assets. That can only go on for so long. We are now in a situation where much of our infrastructure is aging and needs increasing maintenance, or needs to be replaced. The Sunshine Coast Arena and the Gibsons Pool, our fire stations, the public works yard, Grantham's Hall and Cooper's Green are all examples (The water infrastructure coming in over the next few years will all be paid for through utility fees). Since 2008 local governments are required to do asset management, meaning they need to fund their assets in a way that they can build it, maintain it, and replace it with sustainable funding models. This also means that we need staff to do the asset management, and more maintenance staff to do the work. It all takes time to do these asset management plans and staff is still catching up on 60+ years of not doing that. All this results in substantial increases. Our annual tax increases currently are approximately 30-40% making up for the past, 30-40% current expenses and 20% planning for the future. Here is a link to the 2020-2024 financial plan presentation published after the 2020 Rd 2 budget.
2. Our landfill is nearing the end of its life. We need about $6 million to close it down, not to mention finding a new solution for our solid waste. Every year we are adding $200,000 more to the closure reserve than the year before, creating an automatic tax increase of about 1%. That is still not enough to cover the liability, so we will have to get creative. We are in the process of looking for new solutions to our landfill, and either way, that will also cost a lot of money.
3. Climate Change is having real impacts, the most tangible being in our water supply, funded through utility fees, but also in other ways. Decarbonizing our lives is going to take some effort, and being a seaside community we will have to plan for sea-level change, increased wildfire threats and creating initiatives to reduce our GHG's, both internally and externally. This also needs to be resourced by staff, creating more jobs, and more costs. Climate Change is also having a substantial effect on our insurance premiums.
4. COVID 19 is also having a real impact. We are running 80% of our pre-pandemic transit schedule, with less than 50% of the ridership. Our recreation facilities cost more to operate due to stricter cleaning protocols and precautions, but they are at a fraction of the visitor volume. The good news is, we are getting help from senior levels of government (we were just given $500,000 for safe restart funding, and some support from BC transit. But it doesn't cover all the costs, like running the Emergency Operations Centre for months on end and providing facilities for the homeless during the peak of the first wave.
5. There are other reasons, like uploading and downloading, rising costs and increases in regulation, and Area E Director Donna McMahon has done a fantastic job describing those with her article "The five horsemen of the property tax apocalypse".