Friday, 31 October 2014

TAXES AND MORE TAXES


So what is the scoop on taxes? Are White Rock's the highest in the western world as rumoured? Do we pay more taxes than an equivalent house in Surrey?

Let's take a look at those questions.

According to a tax document put out by Surrey, White Rock's residential taxes are the 4th highest in Metro Vancouver. West Vancouver's are by far the highest, followed by North Van District, then Vancouver.   New West's and Port Moody's are just marginally lower than White Rock's.   Surrey's are the lowest in the Region, just about in a tie with Langley City.

In terms of Business taxes, White Rock's are the 7th highest. The highest by far are Vancouver's, followed by Coquitlam, West Van, New West, Burnaby, and North Van District. The lowest are Langley City's , followed by Surrey.

However, taxes are just one aspect of the whole picture. There are also other mitigating features. For example , there is the relative amount of Industrial and Commercial (IC) taxes paid.  IC properties pay way more taxes than Residential. So generally speaking, a City derives a considerable amount of taxation from these properties - to the point where the IC actually reduces the taxation on Residential property. After all, the businesses can write it off, right?

This is where the wheels begin to fall off for White Rock. In Metro Vancouver the average share of total property taxes paid by business and industry is 40.7%.  White Rock gets 11% from that source. Surrey gets 31.3 % from ICI.  Langley City gets 47%,and Vancouver gets 45.1%.  So you can see we are at a huge disadvantage in this respect.

When you begin to factor in some other things like : Langley City has a Casino(as do many other cities) which gives them something in the order of  $ 3 to $5 million per year: Maple Ridge does not pick up garbage and recycling: some do not have professional fire departments and rely on volunteers and/or a mix of volunteers and professionals. There are other factors, but you can see a straightforward comparison is not easy.

One way to look at it is in per capita spending - that is how much does the municipality spend per resident in total and on each function.  Answers to this can be obtained from a neutral source - the Fraser Institute.

According to their figures , in terms of Total Spending Per Capita, White Rock , at $1351, ranks 8th highest . The Metro average is $1384. So we are spending less per person than the average municipality - irrespective of how we got the money, be it residential or business property taxes, casinos or whatever. The highest by a longshot is West Van at $2118.  It is followed by New West at $1837, Vancouver at $1689, and Delta at $1596.  Surrey spends by far the least at $951. The next lowest to them is Maple Ridge at $1139.
 So why is Surrey so low? Well there are many reasons. One of them would be its relative newness. Surrey fundamentally is so new, its infrastructure is not yet in need of replacement. It is largely paid for by development. That won't be the case in 30 years , but right now it is great. The older or more mature municipalities are paying for it as they go or borrowing to do so. Of course, one of the oldest parts of Surrey is the old Ward 7 , also known as White Rock,  so when we broke away it does not appear any share of that money came this way.
Another factor is the level of service provided. Take Protective Services (Fire and Police) for example.  White Rocks annual per capita expenditure is $486, the 5th highest in the Region.
The average in Metro is $428.   The highest is West Van at $626, followed by Delta at $567, New West at $508, and Langley City at $496 (the casino comes back to bite you). The lowest is Pitt Meadows at $343 (No Fire Dept) followed by Surrey at $347 (Did someone say they were short on cops?)
So, hopefully that answers those questions. Bottom line is Surrey pays less taxes than we do , but then they are lower than everyone else and there are reasons for the difference.

Wayne
White Rock Matters

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