Ask Pat: Taxes – the western suburbs edition

westvandude asks—

I read your property tax comparison article as I was looking to compare West Vancouver to City of Vancouver taxes. For instance if we say what is the total tax paid on a $2.5 or $3 million house in either community (so property tax, garbage, sewer, water, etc) as I always thought City of Vancouver was more expensive…. when you compare Vancouver streets potholes and snow removal it seems Vancouverites are getting ripped off. Where would I find a comparison for total taxes for same value houses?

Hey, wait, this isn’t a New West question! It also sounds like you want me to answer one of those questions that a few minutes on Google could answer. That link I just used is a little old, but fresher information is pretty easy to find. For example:

Go to the City of Vancouver Property Taxes webpage, and it gives you a pretty good summary of what your Mil Rates are, and where they go:


Unfortunately, no such page exists that I can find on the West Vancouver property taxes webpage.


To find the Mil Rates, you need to dig a bit through the Bylaws until you come upon Bylaw No. 4885, 2016, where the Mil Rates Rates are set out:


If we can ignore Metro, School, and other property taxes that don’t go to the City and are set provincially or regionally, on a house assessed at $2.5 Million in 2016, you paid $3,700 to West Vancouver (2.5M/1,000 x 1.4758), and $3,900 to Vancouver (2.5/1,000 x 1.56168). Of course, we also have to, just for a moment, put aside the absurdity of the phrase “$2.5 Million house in West Vancouver”.

Utilities are more complicated. West Van charges Quarterly for water and sewer. Water has a $60/qtr base charge, and rates that go from $1.15 to $1.93 per cubic metre of water depending on how much you use. Sewerage further costs you $32/qtr plus another $2 per cubic metre of water you use.

Vancouver bills for water on a Ternary basis, with about a $31 base charge, and rates that go from $0.95 to $1.20 per cubic metre of water based on season. Sewage costs a further $0.87 per cubic metre of water use. So it sure looks like for most users, Vancouver water rates are quite a bit lower, but it depends completely on your use. If you have typical household use, Vancouver is several hundred dollars cheaper per year.

Notably, West Vancouver charges homeowners a “Drainage Levy”, which is $400 per year for a typical home. Vancouver does not have a charge like this. That extra $400 charge easily exceeds the difference in property taxes between the Cities. And also points out how the deeper you dig into the comparisons between how different cities pay for their public services, you discover that simply saying “Vancouver has higher taxes than West Vancouver” is a bit of a meaningless phrase. This is why I tried to compare what cities collect in taxes per capita, using data normalized a bit by the provincial government. West Van looks pretty expensive when you look at it that way.

Finally, about the roads and pothole thing, you can look at the 2016 West Van budget, and see they have about $100M in revenue every year, and spend about $4.5M on all engineering services (about 2/3 of that spent on roads). Vancouver’s 2016 Budget showed $1,260 Million in revenue and spending of about $75 Million in all engineering services – so about a 33% higher proportion of revenues. Of course, the roads that Vancouver spends money fixing are way more likely to be used regularly by a West Vancouver resident than vice versa. Also note that Vancouver has (almost) the most roads by area and the most road lane kilometres per capita than any City in British Columbia, where West Vancouver has relatively sparse roads. So we are, once again, comparing apples to pineapples here.

New West taxes? We are about average per-household in the region, and are well below average on a per-capita basis. And the potholes this year are terrible, despite the $4.5 Million spent on asphalt annually. That December snow event was pretty hard on asphalt, and that is going to cost us.

5 comments on “Ask Pat: Taxes – the western suburbs edition

  1. I am in Montreal as the snow melts on the second day of Spring. The pot holes here make those in and around Vancouver look like dents in the ashfalt. Don’t complain!

  2. Hey Pat, thanks for the extremely detailed answer. Couple quick comments, more than 1/3 of my commute is on west van roads. When u say “$2.5m west van house” there’s actually a big misnomer out there. Let me explain…if you look at the desired Dunbar/king Edward area east of ubc there’s noemnithing under $4m for sale. Garbage dumps sell for more than $3m. So if you think west can is the crem-de-la-crem you are mistaken. Honestly, if you take say $5m around ubc compared to west van, in wv you get a 3 car garage instead of a vine covered tear-down, twice the house size, twice as new, can’t see the neighbour vs 6ft away and generally a view! Why not buy in w van?? It’s a no brainer.

  3. Oh, on a side-note while you say west Vancouverites spend a lot of time driving on Vancouver roads, the south Vancouver building we run a business out of pays $10k+ in property taxes and Kent St is a pothole nightmare (actually swallows cars whole). So in fact I spend 2/3 of my property taxes to city of Vancouver and all we get is 1000 useless bike lanes with a new high rise on every block and no future transport planning. Think for a second we have 4 people in a vehicle carpooling and getting thru downtown is more than half our journey. Either a b100 biodiesel vehicle or electric car. Oh I’ve got 12+kw or solar panel grid tie installed too. More people need to put their money where there mouth is and make a difference.

  4. Oh wait a second, Vancouver spending $75m on engineering services…. installing bike lanes, hmmm Nelson and smythe streets now why would they install bike lanes on already gridlocked roads and take a lane away vs going one block over? Brilliant planning! Hmm what about that art gallery screw up job one month overdue for $6m? I could go on all day. Notice how there are 10 people leaning on a shovel vs 3 as in other city street construction jobs and zero snow removal? Ever drive downtown on a weekend. Utter gridlock. Something fishy there.

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