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2013 draft supplemental plan proposes removing time-limited property tax: share your feedback online

A detail from the cover of our 2013 draft supplemental plan.

A detail from the cover of our 2013 draft supplemental plan.

Heads up: TransLink has put together a draft supplemental plan for 2013, to remove a time-limited property tax that is part of our current funding.

Feel free to read through the draft plan now—and head to that same link from March 1 to March 15, 2013 to share your comments on the plan. Tell your friends!

The background on this plan

So why are we doing this? In 2011, the Mayors’ Council approved a two-year, time-limited property tax until a new, sustainable funding source could be found. This tax was part of our Moving Forward work plan for 2012 onward.

However, a new funding source was not identified and the Mayors’ Council has signaled to TransLink that they don’t want the time-limited property tax implemented in its setead. We’re responding to the Mayors’ request by putting forward a supplemental plan, which removes the time-limited property tax assumed in the 2013 base plan.

The supplement plan will address the removal of $60 million in total in 2013 and 2014. As well, to remove the property tax from being drawn in 2013, the supplemental plan must be prepared by March 31, 2013 and approved by the Mayors’ Council before May 1, 2013.

What are the impacts of removing this tax?

The answer to this question and more are in the Supplemental Plan page FAQ. Here’s a snippet though:

Without this additional funding, will my service be impacted?

We have been focused on operating efficiently and cutting costs. This has allowed TransLink to remove the time-limited property tax while maintaining existing services and implementing the projects outlined in the 2013 Base Plan. However, we will not be able to further expand the system at this time and will need to continue to manage ongoing financial risk.

What’s a supplemental plan?

To back it up all the way: a supplemental plan has to do with how we develop our work plans every year.

First, by law, we are required to come up with a base plan every year, outlining our work for the next three years, plus an outlook on services for the next seven years. In this plan, we have to describe exactly how we’ll pay for the work we’re planning to do and where the money will come from—which is why funding sources like property tax and such keep coming up year to year.

However, if we want to change something about this base plan—to expand, for example, or to change our funding sources—the law says we need to come up with a supplemental plan to amend the base plan.

This supplemental plan then must be approved by our Board, reported on by the Regional Transportation Commissioner, and approved by the Mayors’ Council.

And of course, there’s more on this on the main Supplemental Plan page.

So what’s next?

Your feedback is next! Give us your feedback on the plan, then we’ll incorporate it into the plan and present it to the Mayors’ Council in late March. It’s up to the mayors then to decide whether to approve or not.

I’ll have more info as it comes! Feel free to ask questions below.


11 Comments

  • By Cliff, March 1, 2013 @ 5:17 pm

    Wouldn’t costs be cut drastically if TransLink owned roads were handled by the provincial government? I get that the idea behind TransLink is to move people around and roads are supposed to fall within that scope, but it doesn’t. TransLink doesn’t have the clout to take on NIMBY communities like New Westminster like the province does. And think of all the waste when you have an additional agency acting like an additional level of government. In this regard, TransLink doesn’t fit comfortably between local and provincial levels of government. Especially when the Metro Vancouver board already occupies this area as well. It just seems like more red tape for less being done. TransLink is obligated to please everyone and in doing so, pleases nobody.

    Costs could also be cut if the provincial government took over policing or if operating policies were better scrutinized. The current police do not seem to receive adequate training and have cost TransLink additional tax payer money through lawsuits filed against them. Moreover, they are often duplicating RCMP and local police when they are enforcing laws on roads and highways. Chasing a suspect off transit property is one thing, enforcing the highway act is another. Just because they can, doesn’t mean it should be the normal operating procedure. I would like to see them work closely with local police to solve issues in and around transit property, particularly trouble hot-spots like Surrey and New Westminster. Local governments also need to take some responsibility and cover the costs of their poor planning. Surrey Central Station is that way because of civic planning and social responsibility issues, not because it’s a transportation hub. Make the cities absorb these costs.

    Can costs be cut by changing certain routes during off peak hours to community shuttle? It seems to me that some of the transit cuts being promoted could be replaced with shuttles instead. How about bringing back the old dial-a-bus system in very low ridership areas? I’m sure paying an operator is lot cheaper than paying a driver to drive an empty bus, even if that driver is merely on-call.

    I want to see hard numbers on what executives are being paid. Are we getting bang for our buck? There was a recent scandal in Alberta where committee members were paid to sit on a committee that never once met. Are executives being paid too much for too little work? These people need to answer to someone and I want to make sure my money is spent wisely here. Lose the closed doors. Broadcast this stuff on community television. It’s my money and I want to see how decisions on spending it are being made.

    I also want to see some leadership by example, if you have faith in our transportation system, then use it. I may not like Mayor Moonbeam’s policies, but at least he used the bicycle lanes he put in.

    What I’m saying is that a lot of expenditures are artificial in nature. Another level of government means more red tape and another agency with their own goals in mind and another hand in the pot.

    TransLink needs to focus on public transportation only. The only additional regional responsibilities TransLink should have are to study population movements to provide better transit, to provide this information to other levels of government and as a voice for infrastructure that is required for public transportation. This means bus loops, HOV/Bus lanes, preempted traffic signalling for buses, park & rides, and liaising with communities to target transportation issues. Maybe we don’t see much of what happens behind the scenes, but I honestly don’t see transit planners and city engineers working as closely as I think they should.

    And of course, the Buzzer Blog’s budget should be tripled! :)

  • By mike0123, March 1, 2013 @ 7:38 pm

    It is completely understandable that the public is confused about the cause of funding issues at Translink. The blog post does not refer once to the responsibility of the Province to enable funding options to Translink through legislation or to its unfulfilled promise to enable a long-term funding source before 2013 in exchange for the Mayors’ Council approval of the time-limited property tax now being removed.

    The following sentence is especially misleading because it implies that the Mayors’ Council has not identified a new funding source: “However, a new funding source was not identified and the Mayors’ Council has signaled to TransLink that they don’t want the time-limited property tax implemented in its setead (sic).” The truth is that the Province has not enabled any of the funding sources identified by the Mayors’ Council.

    The Mayors’ Council has written two letters to the Provincial Minister of Transportation within the last month detailing their frustration with the unwillingness of the Province to identify funding sources.

    http://www.francesbula.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Letter-to-Minister-Polak-2013-02-04-100042-2.pdf

    http://www.francesbula.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/13-02-28-Letter-to-Minister-Polak-1.pdf

    The supplemental plan itself appears to say that no change to service is expected.

  • By Eugene Wong, March 2, 2013 @ 11:06 pm

    It’s good to know that when funding is scarce or reduced, Translink will continue to double lanes, and build new roads and highways. You build new highways, because the deal was too good to pass up. Our voices “mattered”, but they could not make a difference.

    Oh, at best service will be maintained. At worst, it will be reduced.

    Roads get better for sure, and we’ll see what happens to transit. Remember people: funding cuts must *never* affect roads.

    I can’t imagine a single funding suggestion of ours being used.

    I say that Translink should take over *more* roads, and not invest another penny in them. Let volunteers take care of them.

  • By Marvin B, March 3, 2013 @ 9:46 am

    I agree with Cliff and Eugene. I think that if Translink owns roads, they should be the most bus friendly roads around. All further road improvements should be bus lanes only. HOV lanes lead to park and rides. Take car lanes away for buses. Make driving so terrible that people take the bus who don’t now. Service will improve. There’ll be some growing pains but eventually metro Vancouver will be the transportation envy of North America. Politicians will be lauded as community builders. Make those who insist on their car pay tolls to use roads and enter urban areas. For those living farther out in the suburbs, more park and rides with direct, frequent bus service to sky rains or downtown or whatever city centre. The status quo is no longer sustainable. A new model should be built. There will be gripers, there always are. Is there any political will to make a huge change in how people get around? With politicians always looking to the next election and not wanting to take a stand on anything, I doubt it, but I hope so.

  • By Sheba, March 3, 2013 @ 7:58 pm

    It seems like I’m not the only one who thinks that TransLink should only be planning and running public transit, and not be dealing with funding it. I don’t have a problem with them being part of the overall transportation planning team, but the way things are now isn’t working and hasn’t been for some time.

    There needs to be a new transportation model for the future, one that isn’t car-centric. But that’s not going to happen until cars become so expensive to own and drive that people have to live in their cars because they can’t afford anything else.

    The cities are also to blame here. There needs to be planning so that people don’t have to drive all the time. Burnaby has seen some progress with four town centers with higher density housing and shopping around Skytrain stations (other regions might have as well, but living in Burnaby it’s the one I know about).

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, March 4, 2013 @ 3:41 pm

    Folks:

    First, let me say you can submit your 2013 supplement questions on for answer by our CFO, Cathy McLay! Direct link:
    https://buzzer.translink.ca/2013/03/questions-about-our-2013-supplement-ask-translinks-cfo/

    Second, interesting conversation as always. I don’t know if any of you have read the TransLink history book but it provides some good insight into the formation of TransLink in 1990s and the issues it was intended to solve, from both the region and the province’s perspectives.

    Last, as Cliff asked, you can see all of our executives’ salaries and more in our Financial Information Act filing at our Corporate Reports page.

  • By Chris M., March 7, 2013 @ 12:41 pm

    Interesting. While provincial budget continues to flow to road and highway projects, Translink is in the business of managing decline in transit services resources.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, March 7, 2013 @ 1:29 pm

    Chris: I saw a very similar phrase over at Gordon Price’s blog :)

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Other Links to this Post

  1. The Buzzer blog » Questions about our 2013 supplement? Ask TransLink’s CFO! — March 4, 2013 @ 11:53 am

  2. The Buzzer blog » Cathy McLay, TransLink CFO, answers your questions about the 2013 supplement — March 11, 2013 @ 3:48 pm

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