by Mike Andruff
Do you get value for your property tax dollars today ? Are you confident in the value you receive, or are you confused? I received my semi-annual tax bill in the mail last week – YIKES! I decided to assess the value I was receiving for money paid.
Now, I’m not going to get into a rant about how much I have to pay (no boohoohoo, here), but, I wanted to reflect on how things have changed, say over the last 10 years. In an earlier time, the city services were straight forward, and you knew for what you were paying. Today we pay more than we ever have, and yet, it is unclear what we are actually receiving for our, after income tax paid, property tax dollars.
For instance in 2004, the City clearly said they provided the following services: fire and police protection, garbage disposal, by-law enforcement, water and sewage services, community facilities and services, recreation programs, library services, animal control, street and traffic services, and zoning and building regulations. They also portrayed how model taxes by a taxpayer, was divided up to pay for services and programs. General Administration and Debt was covered by 11% of model taxes paid.
In 2014, General and Administration has grown on a percentage basis to 22% of operating expenditures, and the budget talks in terms of service plans and metrics. Language now addresses, “ensuring a strong economy, being the greenest city in the world, eliminating street homelessness, and being a safe, creative, and inclusive community”.
As a tax payer, I require openness, transparency and accountability. Today’s consumers demand, and are receiving, full disclosure for services rendered and on products offered. It should be no different for services rendered by the City of Vancouver.
In the days of yore, the king generally paid the piper because he called the tune(s). The customer/tax payer, are the king/queen today, and they should have their say in how their tax dollars are dedicated (the City used 426 people on the 311 line to obtain citizen input). City administrators need to weigh spending priorities with care, and consideration of the value for dollar attached to each service considered. A question to consider in heading to the polls in November is, Are our civic administrators providing a duplication of services from other level of governments? Are taxpayers paying twice for, say social programs?
If you feel like calling the tune, question candidates and parties on how closely they will play your music, schedule your date with your polling station, and lastly, on November 15th, VOTE!