VANCOUVER — The Vancouver City Council will hold a second public hearing on the somewhat controversial Vancouver Police funding issue at its regularly scheduled council meeting tonight.
Although most groups agree that the local police department — still hurting from cutbacks after the 2009 recession and unable to keep up with demands from a growing population — is in need of a more stable funding source, some business leaders have publicly worried that the city’s plan to implement a multi-tiered revenue scheme will adversely affect Vancouver’s business community and owners of multifamily housing complexes.
In early January, several business leaders turned up for the council’s first public hearing to voice their opposition to “Option A,” which would have implemented two brand new revenue sources immediately. The “Option B” plan gives business owners and property owners of multifamily housing complexes more time to figure out the city’s new taxing plans.
Vancouver City Councilmembers move ‘Option B’ forward and terminate ‘Option A,’ at their Mon., Jan. 23 city council meeting. The councilors are expected to vote on the Option B revenue package, which most business leaders favored, at their council meeting tonight, Mon., Feb. 6, after a public hearing on the matter. Here is video footage of the Vancouver City Council’s regular meeting on Mon., Jan. 23. Video by CVTV.org
In an effort to find funding and add officers to the Vancouver Police Department, Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt and the City Council decided in 2016 to form a 20-member Community Resource Team. Headed by Mayor Pro Tem Anne McEnerny-Ogle, the team included a diverse cross-section of Vancouver and included representatives from the city’s business, nonprofit, housing and faith-based communities. The team met nine times, from April to November of 2016, and came up with what they believe to be the best two options for increasing funding for Vancouver’s police department.
The funding options include seven funding elements — five existing or in-the-works funding mechanisms and two new revenue streams. The five existing sources include the following:
- Marijuana Sales Tax — This money is already allocated and will provide roughly $500,000 a year to the city of Vancouver for police funding.
- COPS Grant Funding — Another already-existing funding source, this bridge-funding grant will provide three years’ worth of police funding and provide $400,000 a year in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
- Proposed Van Mall North annexation tax revenues — This revenue stream is still in the works, but the Community Resource Team estimated that the new tax revenues from the annexation will provide about $1.5 million annually, beginning in 2018.
- Increase in Business Tax Surcharge — This surcharge already exists, but the increase would provide an estimated $800,000 annually by 2020.
- Increase in Utility Tax Rate on City-owned Utilities — The city has one of the lowest utility tax rates in the region and the proposed increase would make Vancouver more comparable to utility tax rates in other similarly sized areas and generate about $3.4 million in new revenues by 2020.
The four new revenue streams, which proved more controversial with some business owners and business group representatives, include the following:
- Annual Surcharge on Multi-family Units — Under Option B, which provides a two-year gap to help educate property owners and businesses, the surcharge would charge nothing in 2017 and 2018, then charge $90 per unit per year in 2019. Again, the revenues generated would equal $2.3 million by 2020.
This surcharge would apply to all multi-family units that include a kitchen and bathroom and are leased or rented to residential tenants as living quarters. There would be exemptions for multi-family housing that includes more than one unit devoted specifically to low-income housing for people earning less than 60 percent of the area median income, including seniors and disabled people.
- Annual Square Foot Surcharge on Retail/Commercial/Industrial Spaces — One of the more contentious new surcharges, this revenue stream would depend on owners of retail, commercial and/or industrial space within the city of Vancouver and places a surcharge on indoor space by the square foot. The first 5,000 square feet of space is exempt. Under Option A, the plan would have started in 2017 with rates progressively going up for all types of business space through 2020 for a total of $1.4 million in revenue from retail spaces, $1.2 million from commercial spaces and $1.2 million from industrial spaces by 2020. Under Option B, the plan would go into effect in 2019 and come out to the same revenue totals described in Option A.
The Vancouver City Council voted unanimously at their Jan. 23 council meeting to terminate “Option A” and move the more widely accepted “Option B” forward to a second public hearing on Feb. 6.
Having already terminated the more controversial “Option A” plan, the councilmembers could approve “Option B,” which garnered more support from the business community, at their council meeting tonight. The council meeting begins at 7 p.m., Mon., Feb. 6, in council chambers, 415 W. 6th St., Vancouver.