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TransLink back to property tax hike

Walton: Premier's audit plans fine, but transit financing still needed

DISTRICT of North Vancouver Mayor Richard Walton says Metro Vancouver mayors welcome a "value for money" audit of TransLink, but it won't save homeowners from a property tax hike.

Walton, chairman of the TransLink Mayors' Council on Regional Transportation, was reacting to comments made by Premier Christy Clark last week, saying both a proposed vehicle levy and regional carbon tax were non-starters.

The mayors' council recently wrote to the province, requesting those options be considered to head off an anticipated property tax hike that will be otherwise needed to fund a $30-million shortfall in TransLink's plans for expansion.

Walton, who favours a road/distance tax on drivers as a longer-term solution, said neither the vehicle levy or carbon tax option were the council's first choices. But they were the only solutions that could be implemented in the remaining two months the legislature sits, he said this week.

Without either of those, a property tax hike for homeowners in the Lower Mainland is inevitable.

That is especially bad news for North Shore homeowners, whose property values are often twice that of "average" homes in the region.

West Vancouver Mayor Michael Smith echoed that concern at Monday night's council meeting.

"In West Vancouver we're at a huge disadvantage," he said during a discussion of TransLink funding. "We could be in a very serious situation with our property taxes."

In the same meeting, West Vancouver Coun. Bill Soprovich called for an audit of TransLink, saying steps must be taken to scale back the "horrendous costs" faced by taxpayers over the next 15 years.

Clark also called for an audit, saying she would like to find the extra $30 million through that process.

Walton said this week nobody's arguing with an audit of TransLink. But that process could take a couple of years to complete, he said, which won't help with the tax hike slated for next year.

Walton acknowledged the past week has not been especially easy, after angry citizens fired off threats to a number of local leaders after learning about the proposed vehicle levy and carbon tax.

Walton refused to say if he was one of the politicians who received death threats over the issue.

"There were some emails that were really over the edge," he said. "Let's just say there were a few of those."

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