Local Prosperity: Options for Municipal Revenue Growth in British Columbia exposes significant problems with the existing system of financing local governments and proposes a range of revenue generating alternatives.
Our cities, towns, villages and regional districts are in trouble, and the present model of local government financing simply doesn’t work – and indeed, it can’t work. Local governments are forced to depend on property taxes which can’t alone finance ever-growing municipal costs, as other levels of government offload responsibilities and many communities lose their industrial tax base.
The challenges facing all 189 BC’s municipalities are interconnected – symptoms of an unsustainable system of municipal financing. In a survey of mayors, councilors and senior staff in local government across BC, we found many municipalities struggling to adapt to changing economic conditions, an aging infrastructure that is becoming more costly to operate and maintain, escalating costs in housing, transportation and other areas beyond their control, and a residential and business tax base unable to sustain the accelerating property tax increases of the past decade.
The system needs a major overhaul – it must be both fairer and more effective at raising the revenues local governments need, Think City believes that all parties involved must get engaged now to work toward creating a new sustainable financing system for local governments in British Columbia.
Think City and the authors would like to thank all of the elected officials and local government staff who took the time to participate in our survey. Your input and comments greatly contributed to the value of this project.
Think City would also like to acknowledge the assistance of the following people and organizations in the preparation of this report: Charley Beresford, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Canadian Union of Public Employees, Columbia Institute, Carl Fletcher, Seth Klein, Neil Monckton, Louise Onarheim, Blair Redlin, Shauna Rusnak, Simon Fraser University School of Public Policy, Terry Sunderland.