Are you willing to pay more to help combat the overdose crisis?
The City of Vancouver is recommending city council increase your property taxes to deal with the rash of overdoses plaguing Vancouver’s streets.
In a memo added last minute to budgetary proposals to be considered by city council today, staff recommend an additional .5 per cent property tax increase, on top of the already proposed 3.4 per cent increase to deal with the fentanyl crisis.
— Shelby Thom (@ShelbyThom980) December 7, 2016
It would generate $3.5 million for the city’s contingency fund to go towards more staff support for overdose management at shelters, additional shelter space, a new three-person medic crew at the downtown eastside Fire Hall, and more resources for public sanitation and cleanliness due to the increase in needles and abandoned garbage.
The City of Vancouver is already proposing an increase in taxes and service fees to cover a $55 million increase to its $1.3 billion operating budget.
But the Non-Partisan Association says it’s against the proposed property tax increase .
While she won’t commit to voting against it yet, NPA city councillor Melissa De Genova says staff should be able to find funds within the existing budget.
“I’m very concerned here that this is just another cost that’s added on.”
Meanwhile Vision Vancouver city councillor Geoff Meggs says that’s unrealistic.
“I find it pathetic that they would propose that we turn our backs on people dying of overdoses, or try to cut it out of the library, or cut it out of our police budget, where are we going to cut in from?”
Council will vote on the budget next week.
Help is needed
The President of Vancouver Fire Fighters IAFF Local 18, Rob Weeks, says the extra money would help with more than just the overdose crisis.
The need for a third unit to help them do their jobs is dire.
“Just to give you some perspective, that puts us at the busiest fire hall in Canada by far; the busiest fire trucks in Canada, by a lot. And we haven’t done the analysis in North America, but I’d feel fairly safe saying it’s one of the busiest fire halls in North America now…with only two fire trucks. So this third unit is needed, it’s critical, it’s a real long-term solution.”
This month alone, Fire Hall Number Two is on pace this month – alone – to hit 1600 calls.
Premier supports the City of Vancouver’s proposal
Premier Christy Clark says she hasn’t reviewed the city’s budget in detail but, when it comes to the fentanyl crisis, no one can slough off their responsibility.
“We all have to do our part. I mean, this is not something that one government can do on its own. The provincial government has invested heavily in this. We are going to continue to do that. We need to.”
Clark says the fentanyl crisis is not something one government can take care of on its own.
She says the province has invested heavily and the feds are making great strides, so it makes sense the City of Vancouver would step up as well.
With files from Ria Renouf and Liza Yuzda