If you are a property owner you have recently received a property tax bill. For some perhaps relief, for others disdain. The mayor has proudly proclaimed she and council have been able to keep the increase down to 2.9 per cent. Should that statement be accepted, challenged or clarified?
A friend in a view home in South Delta reports the annual increase on his home taxes has been 14 per cent. As for our home, the increase over the past five years has totaled 25 per cent. Not too bad, until you compare that to inflation over the past five years, which has been much less at 9.5 per cent. Why are taxes up more than inflation?
Part of the challenge is downloading from senior levels and from Metro Vancouver. Part of the real increase in taxes is being hidden by issuing a separate utility bill (water, sewer, garbage and recycling), which has increased 43 per cent over the past five years to $915 this year. Meanwhile, our school taxes, with declining enrollment, have increased 10 per cent - or even with inflation over the past five years.
Previously I commented that the effect of Delta's fiscal approach - pay down old debts while paying for all new construction with current year's tax revenues - has increased our taxes. While fiscally admirable, it has increased our tax burden in a time of downloading and economic restraint. Delta has exacerbated this by setting aside up to $10 million additional per year for "contingencies" and pet projects.
Recently this paper reported that 15.5 per cent of our population is senior citizens - a growth of about 22 per cent in the past five years. Seniors are most often on fixed incomes with increases less than inflation, so changes in their incomes over the past five years can be assumed to be 10 per cent or less. Simplifying the mathematics, one in six citizens in Delta has had their standard of living reduced by municipal tax increases.
So how do we better understand what is going on? Let me offer an example:
Last month council members voted themselves a pay raise, saying it was based on comparative salaries of other councils. It is retroactive to within a month of them assuming office.
They did not say it was in keeping with inflation. Councillors gave themselves a 7.9 per cent raise and the mayor got 6.5 per cent, both well above inflation.
To validate these compensation levels, they compared their salaries to the average in four other municipalities, which they had chosen to have "similar populations" (Langley, Coquitlam, North Vancouver District and Richmond). However, on closer examination, those municipalities have an average population 21 per cent larger than Delta.
So is the comparison really appropriate? Were the examples poorly chosen?
I offer a fresh comparison of annual stipend based on four more comparable communities (Saanich, Victoria, Abbotsford and North Vancouver) whose average population is within three per cent of Delta.
The $110,653 earned by Delta's mayor is 17.9 per cent higher than the $93,813 average salary in the other jurisdictions. As for councillors, their $47,564 salary is 27.6 per cent higher than the $37,257 average.
Does this shed some light on how "tight" Delta is with your money?
So when the mayor proclaims Delta is "tightening our belts," and how with a 2.9 per cent increase we are well served, what do you think?