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A Stronger Vancouver hearing tonight

The Vancouver City Council is holding its first public hearing on A Stronger Vancouver, granting city residents a chance to comment on the expansive proposed package of projects and services that would be paid for by various taxes.

The public hearing will be held immediately after the city council’s regularly scheduled meeting at 6:30 p.m. today.

“While we have done a tremendous amount of community outreach and engagement … we have not held any formal forums with the city council,” Vancouver City Manager Eric Holmes said.

Initially conceived as a way to address the city’s structural deficit, A Stronger Vancouver has since expanded to encompass around 60 items — around half are capital projects, like rebuilding fire stations and renovating parks, and another half would establish new programs like an arts fund and a homelessness response team.

A full list of the proposed projects and programs can be found at strongervancouver.org.

As currently proposed, the package would raise taxes by around $23.5 million. Of that, city leaders are anticipating that about $9.7 would come from an increase in property taxes and $4.2 million would come from a business employee surcharge.

About $8.8 million more would come from other miscellaneous taxes and fees, including a $3 million tax on internet sales, a $2.7 million increase to utility tax rates and a $2.6 million increase to park impact fees.

The city council has already shot down other proposed sources of funding for the package, including a $5.5 million business and occupation tax.

A Stronger Vancouver’s stakeholders committee started its task back in May 2017. At that time, the city’s population was up by 25,000 residents and 3,000 businesses compared with a decade prior, while the city’s staff was still at a level prompted by the Great Recession. The task of the 10-person group of stakeholders who wrote the plan was to figure out how to take Vancouver from survival mode into a sustainable future.

The group ultimately emerged with a $30.1 million plan, which they presented to the city council earlier this year.

Over the summer, city staff led by Communications Director Carol Bua worked to collect feedback from around 2,500 residents through online surveys, focus groups and tabling events.

The outcome of that feedback, Bua said, showed that residents were most open to investments that would address homelessness. They were less interested in building new parks, or any projects that would compromise Vancouver’s small-town feel.

Tonight’s forum, however, will offer residents their first chance to address the city council directly about the plans laid out in A Stronger Vancouver.

A second community forum on the package will be held Dec. 9. After that, the city council plans to hold a series of workshops finalizing the plan through the spring, with adoption of A Stronger Vancouver tentatively scheduled for April 20.


Source: https://www.columbian.com

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