KyleBryan/Twitter photo Protesters – and interlopers –attend a school tax rally in Vancouver last May.

School tax a ‘ripoff’ – White Rock mayor

Provincial measure, to start in 2019, targets properties valued over $3M

An additional provincial school tax on high-valued properties that would come into effect in 2019 is getting a thumbs-down from White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin.

Calling it a “misnomer” and a “rip off,” Baldwin told Peace Arch News Wednesday that the city plans to protest the move at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention at Whistler in September and also in a private meeting with B.C. Finance Minister Carole James, a measure he understands the Metro Vancouver board will also be taking.

“I don’t know whether she’s going to be supportive of that, since she’s the one who introduced it,” Baldwin said of James. “But some awareness might result.”

Baldwin said the tax, aimed at properties with an assessed value of $3 million or more – which applies to a total of 156 White Rock residential folios – will unfairly target properties in the Lower Mainland for which assessed value has skyrocketed in recent years, without reflecting property owners’ ability to pay.

And he insists it is being incorrectly labelled a ‘school tax’.

“I think the province is looking for money,” he said. “It’s a misnomer, because it goes into general revenue. Does it go to pay for schools? As much as anything else in general revenue, I suppose.”

A corporate report on the impact of the tax on White Rock properties was presented to council Monday by city financial services director Sandra Kurylo.

She noted that the minimum additional tax would be $1,000 (based on a 0.2 per cent tax rate for properties assessed between $3-4 million), which could rise to at least $4,000 per property valued over $4 million (at which level the tax rate rises to 0.4 per cent of assessed value).

According to her figures, 104 single-family units and five multi-family units fall into the $3 million to $3.99 million assessment range, which could be expected to pay between $1,000 and $2,000 extra next year.

Kurylo said 32 single-family properties are valued between $4 million and $5.99 million, which could result in a tax hike of between $2,000 and $10,000.

And, 11 single-family residential properties are valued at $6 million or more – which could end up paying between $10,000 and $37,000 extra, while four mixed-use properties that are not yet developed or stratified could be facing an additional bill of between $28,000 and $89,000.

The total amount expected to be raised in the city in 2019 through the additional tax is $680,000, Kurylo said.

Baldwin said that while the city would be required by law to list the tax as a school tax on residents’ tax notices, the city will likely list it as ‘provincial taxes for school purposes.’

“Fundamentally, it’s a rip-off,” he said. “It’s a regressive tax. The Lower Mainland pays the bulk of school taxes in the province. Properties have appreciated in the Lower Mainland in a way they haven’t in the rest of the province.”

Baldwin noted that in other areas of the province, the homeowners grant is equal to the school taxes levied, and, in some cases, it covers both school and municipal taxes combined. There is also a $200 supplement to the homeowners grant for those who live outside of the Lower Mainland, he added.

“The (new) tax is nothing to do with the ability to pay – it’s about whether you live in the Lower Mainland,” he said.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if a few of the $3 million properties (in White Rock) were bought by people 50 years ago, and all of a sudden the land is worth a huge amount.

“The province will say that if the property owners are retired, they can defer their taxes, but part of the issue is that seniors don’t want to defer taxes.”

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