Editorial — Yet more property tax increases

While proposed property tax increases are modest, it still hurts many taxpayers.

The two municipal governments in Langley want taxpayers to pay a little more this year, and while the added costs are not significantly higher for most property owners, the tax increases do take a bite out of people’s wallets.

Langley City is boosting taxes for single-family homes by about three per cent, with a smaller 1.25 increase for owners of apartments and townhouses.

Langley  Township is proposing a tax increase of 2.8 per cent.

While these increases are slightly above the inflation rate, it is important to look at exactly what they are going towards. Langley City is asking for a .75 per cent tax increase to go towards an infrastructure fund, to replace the City’s aging infrastructure.

There is no question this must be an important priority for the City, as many of its water and sewer pipes are in excess of 50 years old. It would be nice if this fund was replenished by casino funds, which the City has used in the past for capital projects, rather than another tax boost for property owners.

In both the City and Township, negotiations are underway with the Canadian Union of Public Employees, and a pay increase is likely. This is where the bulk of any tax increase will go — even though municipal workers, union and non-union, receive generous wages and have pension plans far better than almost everyone working in the private sector. Negotiators for municipalities seem incapable of negotiating wage freezes and any concessions that are granted by unions are minimal.

Until municipal officials are able to hold off on annual wage increases, tax rates will keep jumping each year. For example, firefighters’ wages consume 76 per cent of the Township fire department’s budget, and wages account for 61 per cent of the general government budget.

While many people own properties that are theoretically worth a lot of money, given real estate price increases, many are also cash-poor. They have received no wage or pension increases and face increasing costs on many fronts — not just when it comes to paying property taxes.

While municipal politicians have tightened their belts slightly, there is more they could do to ease the pressure on taxpayers. A good place to begin would be at the negotiating table.