Municipalities expect most B.C. homeowners to pay property taxes despite COVID-19

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Parking fees and fines for a city such as Vancouver can be a significant revenue source, as much as $80 million or about five per cent of its operating budget.

Casinos continue to be shut since March because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so there are no revenues flowing to the province to be shared.

Coquitlam expects to face about a $5 million operating budget shortfall next year and expects it may have to cut spending on capital projects, which has longer-term implications for a community, noted Hunt.

Like other communities, Coquitlam has already made workforce adjustments to reduce its costs.

Vancouver, the largest community in B.C. with the biggest operating and capital budget, has also had to cut staffing levels and services. It is facing a $120-million operating budget shortfall this year and recently voted to cut its five-year capital plan by more than $220 million.

“We’ve been worried all along. That’s why we extended the deadline to pay,” said Vancouver city councillor Adriane Carr. “But we really do expect the vast, vast majority will pay by the end of the month.”

The federal and B.C. governments are providing assistance to municipalities because of the pandemic, as much as $540 million to support local government operations, according to the Union of B.C. Municipalities.

The funding is welcome, municipalities say, but not expected to meet shortfalls for local governments whose operating budgets in B.C. totalled more than $8.6 billion in 2018 and have risen since.

Municipalities face difficult choices in raising tax rates and/or cutting services in trying to balance their budgets, says Tom Davidoff, a professor in the Sauder School of Business at the University of B.C.

He believes it would make sense for the federal and provincial governments to use their borrowing power to help local governments.

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