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Editorial: Expect sticker shock with municipal tax hikes coming

Inflation, rising construction costs and downloading are going to pinch budgets
The partially-constructed North Shore Wastewater Treatment plant sits idle, Sept. 2023. The delayed Metro Vancouver project is one of many cost pressures hitting North Vancouver and West Vancouver tax bills. | Paul McGrath / North Shore News files

It’s budget crunch time for municipalities on the North Shore. And while taxpayers won’t be opening their bills for several months, the decisions going into the numbers are happening now.

Simply put, it’s not a pretty picture. Municipal governments around B.C. are looking at tax hikes that are double the norm.

The primary driver of that increase is rising labour costs as general inflation influences new collective agreements. The other is even more rapid growth in construction costs, which impacts everything from new capital projects to infrastructure maintenance and repairs.

Increasingly, senior levels of government are downloading costs for things like climate change and housing onto local councils.

That’s to say nothing of the other significant property taxes municipal governments have no control over, including the provincial “school tax” and various Metro levies covering everything from transit to sewer costs.

On that latter note, we predict local taxpayers may need to make good use of the sewer system later this spring when they get an official update on the stomach-churning cost increases for the new wastewater treatment plant. That is expected to send utility bills soaring on the North Shore.

Expect the sticker shock to be real when tax bills arrive in July. It’s possible that what taxpayers consider “essential” service may differ from what the higher minds in municipal hall do.

When it comes to municipal services and infrastructure, expect to pay more for less in the current environment. Both the public and the bean counters would do well to temper their expectations.

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