Thursday, March 16, 2006

Letter To The Editor - March 16, 2006 - From Jeannine Cherewick - Responses To Translink Board Re: Stupid Parking Tax

Subject RE: parking tax!! a response to Paul Barlow, Project Manager Parking Site Tax Implementation

We will post Letters to the Editor prominently. Send Email letters to EDITOR-LFP.

(Below at bottom is response to Mrs. Cherewick's first letter from Translink and just below is her 2nd response to Translink!)

From: Jeannine Cherewick
Cc: Mayor & Council, MP Mark Warawa, MLA Mary Polak, Langley Times, Councillor Steve Ferguson, MLA Kevin Falcon, Councillor Kim Richter, Langley Free Press

First of all, I am Mrs. Cherewick,
Your reasons sound like bureaucratic legalese… Translink has no right to tax a property that they already get a portion of tax funds from (the property tax). Translink has also used a very broad stroke in determining what is taxable with out thought or diligence. The amount of tax is unreasonable, even after that most gracious 20% reduction.

Business people, the bread winners for real families that are already overburdened with taxes from their home and corporate obligations are the ones truly affected by this obscene tax grab. You know; the small business owner who has a small shop with typically less that 50 employees. They do not get a pay raise every time the cost of living increases. They try to stretch every dollar to make ends meet, pay the employees first, hope to find the time and money for a vacation next year, ignore the Telus bill that month and hope to cover it the next. They save pennies, live on credit and now some well paid Translink employee glibly tells me that there is wide spread support for this tax initiative?

When did you come to my door and ask my opinion? When did anyone from Translink come to any of my peers and ask if this was a good idea? Translink didn’t ask small business owners, they probably conferenced with some very large corporations who have a large public drawing and can afford to absorb the costs and in fact it probably wont affect their costs too much because they sell so much product and it’s all made in China so the cost to the bottom line is only pennies per item to them. Who told you this was a good plan and they supported it? I’d like to talk to those companies.

It’s companies that are just a husband and wife team or less than 50 employees, or specialty shops, artisans and fine crafts; those are the ones you should have spoken to and then you’d get a pretty honest reaction to your lame excuses for bleeding us of more of our hard earned money. This tax will see an increase to everything; clothes, groceries, gas, business supplies and so on. I don’t support this tax.
I work from my home and have a big drive way, are you going to tax me too? Oh, wait, you already did! Its called property tax and since the values of property have risen enormously since 1992 (when this dumb idea was first conceived) that funding source should be more than sufficient for Translink along with the fuel taxes and hydro levies and whatever other way you acquire your funding. If its not then obviously Translink is not a well structured or well run company and should cease being a drain on the economy and be dissolved.

Now I’d like to know how much you make every year and what your expense account allowance is and what all your perks are so I can send you a bill for a percentage of what you make and then I could raise it annually to support my family as the cost of living increases because of tax initiatives like this one.
Jeannine Cherewick

Response below to Mrs. Cherewick's initial letter also posted here on LFP.

From: Barlow, Paul []
Sent: Wednesday, March 15, 2006 10:26 AM
To: Jeannine Cherewick
: FW: parking tax!!

Dear Ms. Cherewich;
Thank you for your February 22nd e-mail and your comments on the Parking Site Tax. My apologies for the lateness of this reply.

By way of some history, the tax was proposed as a funding source for BC Transit as early as 1992, and the provincial legislation creating the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority in 1998 included it as a source of funding for TransLink's road and transit services. The legislation defines a 'parking site' as "the part of the land and any improvements on the land that is used, available or designed for the parking of motor vehicles, and for any purpose that is in any way related or ancillary to that parking".

A Parking Site Tax has been implemented for a number of reasons. The first is that demand for road and transit improvements simply outstrips TransLink's revenues. We consulted broadly in 2003 to determine the transportation improvements the region needed us to implement in our 2005 - 2007 Three Year Plan, and to reach some consensus on how to pay for them. While one option was to proceed on the basis of TransLink's existing revenues, the consultation identified a $2 billion list of transit expansion and road projects.

The second reason that this specific tax was created arose out of the widespread support across the region that the users and benefactors of the entire transportation system share the cost of these improvements. Businesses and other organizations rely greatly on the road and transit systems to get goods, services, staff, members and customers to and from their locations. They have a keen interest in alleviating traffic congestion, which serves to drive up business costs and, it follows, the costs of goods and services for all consumers.

As a result of public feedback, TransLink identified three sources of additional revenue to support the transportation plan: transit fares, property tax and parking taxes. Both the transit fare and property tax increases were implemented in 2005.

The Parking Site Tax being implemented in 2006 is the product of consultations with a variety of interest groups. Initially, TransLink proposed an increase to the sales tax charged on off-street paid parking, but stakeholders pointed out its undue impact on limited locations throughout the region (particularly downtown Vancouver and White Rock) and suggested that a region-wide strategy be used instead.

Discussions then took place with a number of organizations, including representatives of commercial property owners, to explore options for a tax based on parking stalls or parking areas, as described in the GVTA Act. In those discussions, representatives expressed strong support for TransLink's transportation plan and an equally strong appreciation that more funding was needed. However, and understandably, they did not like the idea of a tax on parking and wanted us to rely on other sources of funding. The Board did take that view into consideration when they approved the overall financial strategy that drew on transit fares and property taxes as well as the parking site tax.

The discussions then focused on options to structure a parking tax and, based on the input we received, TransLink proceeded with one based on parking area and opted to utilize the existing property tax framework. The key reasons for this were:

a) Fairness and regional equity - stall sizes vary and processes for unmarked parking are not required.
b) Cost of collection and maintenance of the roll - once the roll is established, the collection can be done through existing processes.
c) Objectivity - "area" is definitive and not subject to change.

Further, the framework established enables retail property owners to pass along the cost to all tenants, including anchor tenants.

The property tax framework will exempt some properties from the tax. Generally, any non-residential property that is not subject to municipal property taxes will also not pay the Parking Site Tax.

It is understandable that a number of issues will arise with the introduction of a new tax. In this case, many issues will revolve around the areas that were included in the site measurement. The property tax framework being used creates an appeal process that allows a property owner to appeal to an independent review panel to ensure that the measurement reflects the parameters of the legislation, its regulations and the GVTA bylaws. We anticipate that there will be some adjustments to the total measurements as a result of the appeals that have been filed.
The Board of Directors have listened to the business community and have instructed staff to reduce the rate for 2006 so that revenue generated by this tax be set at $20 million not $25 million as originally planned. They have also requested that staff review the details of implementation of the parking site tax, including those arising from the definition of "parking", exemptions and TDM goals.

As much as anyone, we realize that taxes are not popular and that the introduction of a new tax is even less so.

People in the region have supported increases in transit fares and taxes, knowing the impact on them personally, because they understand the costs involved if we do not improve our transportation network. TransLink's total commitment and focus is on maximizing the benefits from this new revenue in the form of road and transit improvements that people can see and use.
Paul Barlow
Project Manager Parking Site Tax Implementation Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority (TransLink) 1600-4720 Kingsway Burnaby, B.C. V5H 4N2 604-453-4507

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