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April 4, 2020

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Vancouver City Council advances proposal to fund police

It would hike business license fee, raise utility tax, lift cap on head tax

By , Columbian politics reporter
Published:

After several delays, only one meeting remains between the Vancouver Police Department and a new funding mechanism.

The Vancouver City Council has spent the last year working on a method to raise $6.1 million to fund additional police officers and staff, necessitated by a looming per-square-foot tax on multifamily housing and businesses. Without a replacement plan, the square-foot tax would go into effect Jan. 1, 2019.

The initial replacement proposal from Vancouver Strong, an advisory group tasked with developing a sustainable funding mechanism for the city, implemented a head tax on nonprofits with 20 or more employees and removed the cap for businesses already paying the $90-per-employee tax. But nonprofits spoke out last month against the tax and scolded the council for considering the fee. The public backlash was successful and changed the council’s collective mind. A new proposal was offered to lessen the burden on nonprofits while still funding the police department.

The proposal would increase the annual business license fee from $125 to $200 on all businesses, including nonprofits, and eliminates the head tax cap on businesses with more than 400 full-time employees. Utility taxes will also increase 2.4 percent in 2019 and 1.6 percent in 2020.

The funding mechanism was approved on first reading with little fanfare. There was no public testimony and no additional comment from council. The public hearing is scheduled for Oct. 1.

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