Duplication in region brings inefficiencies

More shared services needed for sustainable tax increases: Chamber

By contracting out its major crime investigations, Oak Bay may just have the right formula to save the region from unsustainable tax hikes.

“They contract those out to Saanich,” said Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce CEO Bruce Carter.

It’s an example of alternate service delivery that should be duplicated in other fields, he said. For instance, municipalities could form a joint garbage utility, instead of each one collecting its own. Road work is another example of potential partnerships, to share resources and expertise.

“Do we really need a public works yard in Oak Bay, Victoria, Esquimalt and Saanich?” Carter asked.

It’s all about stemming a “worrying trend” of annual increases in the mill rate set by municipalities, transit, schools and others.

“Even if the muni-cipalities hold the line, we’re still going to have property tax increases,” he said. “We need to look at a holistic approach. The overall bottom line cannot be more than the rate of GDP growth.”

According to the chamber numbers, mill rates for 2011 in the region have increased by an average 3.1 per cent.

That compares to the economy’s predicted growth at 1.7 per cent, and average increase in household incomes at just over two per cent.

A business in Victoria benefits from the highest traffic, but commercial property owners in the city also pay the highest taxes in the region: a property with an assessed value of $774,000 receives a property tax bill of $17,802.

Oak Bay, by contrast, offers the lowest business tax rate in the region.

The property tax bill for the equivalent-sized commercial property is $11,257.

Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin has different ideas for keeping tax increases under control.

“We need to recognize that senior levels of government have been downloading services onto the municipalities,” he said.

Fortin proposes alternative forms of taxation.

By way of example, he suggested linking gas tax to public transit funding.

rholmen@vicnews.com

Mill rate defined:

• The dollars of tax paid per $1,000 of assessed property value.