Editorial: Province needs to pony up for UVic land taxes

Grants-in-lieu of taxes for university property inadequate

Thirteen years ago, in 2003, the District of Oak Bay received more than $72,000 in grants-in-lieu of taxes from the province for the University of Victoria.

This year, the district received just $55,000.

This despite increased costs and inflation, not to mention considerable growth on campus.

Coun. Tom Croft notes that the federal act that guides grants-in-lieu at that level is “based on the principle of fairness respecting both the taxing authorities and the federal government and are equitable in comparison to those made by other property owners.”

So while the province has reduced the already limited funds it provides to Saanich and Oak Bay for UVic, Esquimalt received about $12 million from the federal government for the naval base.

The result is that the university through the province, pays less in property tax than some individual property owners.

Property taxes – or in this case, grants-in-lieu of taxes – pay for myriad services, from water, sewer and roads to recreation, firefighting and policing.

A growing campus means increasing use of those services and the province needs to pony up for those costs. To expect the taxpayers of Oak Bay and Saanich to absorb those increases is unacceptable.

Oak Bay, through Coun. Hazel Braithwaite, will bring a resolution to the Union of BC Municipalities in September asking the province to revisit the issue. The bid builds  on two similar UBCM motions from 2008 and 2011. Both times the province committed to reviewing the pay model but nothing came of it.

As municipalities across B.C. – including Oak Bay – face greater pressure to keep a line on expenses and taxes, the time has long past for the province to pay its share for the services it uses.