Columns: Neufeld Responds To Loewen’s Claims On Abbotsford Taxes

By January 17, 2013Hot Topic, Walter Neufeld

Councillor Dave Loewen has made a rather public and rather determined fuss about the figures quoted in Today columnist Walter Neufeld’s piece on Abbotsford’s high taxes.

Neufeld’s break down of the taxes paid in the communities of the Fraser Valley showed Abbotsford taxpayers paying the highest rates.

Loewen has taken the stance that, if you take the enormous amount Abbotsford pays for a private police force out of the equation, our taxes actually look much better when compared to other jurisdictions.

He also used different comparative figures for average home values than Neufeld in a rather disingenuous attempt to make Abbotsford taxes look good.

Walter Neufeld has now publicly responded to Councillor Loewen’s remarks and other have added their comments in reaction to Loewen’s arguments.

Below are Walter Neufeld’s responses to Dave Loewen.

January 17, 2013

Dear Councillor Loewen,

I trust you will find the time to reply with a more detailed response to the issues before Monday’s Council meeting?

While I wait, I’d like to share some relevant information I received from Vince Dimanno last night.

I readily admit that I am not a property tax expert but have been forced to learn more because of the City’s cavalier attitude toward our taxes.

You had questioned the validity of my ranking municipalities by comparing their property tax averages.

Mr. Dimanno points out that when the tax rate for a $400K home in Abbotsford is compared to the tax rate for a $400K home in Surrey, the disparity between the two municipality tax rates is clear. And Abbotsford is not looking so good.

Please go to BC government web page 2012 Local Government Tax Rates and Assessments

“Click on “Taxes & Charges on a Representative House”….you will see that the taxes paid by an “average” house in Surrey is about the same as Abbotsford. Sort the last column from lowest to highest. You’ll see that out of 163 cities that Abbotsford ranks 139th…nearly the highest. BUT…now look in column 1 and see that all the house values of those paying more tax than us have huge home values.”

“…A home worth more than 4 times one in Abbotsford only pays twice the tax. Ask any Councillor to defend that. They wouldn’t defend that…they’d make more excuses.”

Now compare Abbotsford to Surrey. Here are the real numbers if we properly compare the taxes of equal value homes in Surrey:

Home Value Tax Rate Tax Paid

Abbotsford $400,000 7.58809 $3035.24
Surrey $400,000 4.58354 $1833.42

“I could continue this list for as long as you like. The plain truth is found in the other spreadsheet on this site called “Tax Rates”. You can’t sort by the column under Residential, by scan through and you’ll see what our neighbours rates are.

Property Tax rates aren’t set by a market, they are set by need….and our City Council has shown they “need” to spend our money. If Surrey, Port Coquitlam, Langley, Delta, Burnaby, New Westminster and Richmond can all have tax rates about 6.0 or lower then what is our problem?? AND…some of those cities have city cops…like New Westminster with a tax rate of 5.86.”

You had suggested a, “…more reliable comparator is taxes on a typical house of similar assessed value (eg. $400k.).” That comparison makes the City’s tax rates look worse, not better than by comparing averages.

I appreciate Mr. Dimanno’s insight.

I look forward to your detailed response.

Walter Neufeld

**Please let me know if you would prefer to be removed from this broadcast list. Your email address will be deleted and not shared.

January 16, 2013

Walter, I don’t have a “broadcast” list; Council meetings are my forum.


January 16, 2013

Dear Councillor Loewen,

Thanks for you response.

As requested, I can confirm that our debate will be forwarded to my email broadcast list as always. Will you likewise forward this debate to your broadcast list?

My initial email was critical of the City’s proposed 17.5++ million dollar tax giveaway to YMCA for cause. I cited the Canadian Federation of Independent Business’ comparison of Abbotsford’s spending habits with those of other BC municipalities. The results of that comparison revealed Abbotsford was one of the worst municipal spenders (the list of misspent taxes is long, well known and inglorious).

That misspent money is directly linked to our high property tax rates. When our average home property tax rates are compared to 160 other BC municipalities, Abbotsford’s rates are the 21st highest.

Taxpayers visceral reaction against new capital expenditures is precipitated by Abbotsford’s fiscal mismanagement history. They recall the fiscal Plan “A” debacle and fret. Why are we being led down the same path again? More & more people wonder why George Peary was the only one punished for the costs of the misleading Plan “A” referendum fiasco. And why was he the only one punished for misleading taxpayers about the Stave Lake Water Project referendum that was defeated? And finally, why is the malfeasant spirit driving those misguided decisions still haunting Council’s decision making process?

YMCA (US) is a 5.99 billion dollar enterprise. Why are they not self funding this project rather than trolling our stressed tax revenues for gifts?

Does YMCA qualify for additional tax funding if it takes its projected aggregate project construction cost proposal to “Fraser Valley Regional Hospital District” (FVRHD) for an additional 40% taxpayer funding contribution?

Council has a duty to better guard/serve taxpayers trust.

Abbotsford’s proposed YMCA tax gift is breach of that trust. That worries many.

Your response ignores the relevant issues driving this debate and focus instead on the validity of using average average home property tax rates for comparison purposes and by minimizing the value of those differences.

You suggest, ” A more reliable comparator is taxes on a typical house of similar assessed value (eg. $400k.).” I doubt that standard would achieve a better outcome. If your “more reliable” comparator is applied to Sumas Mountain resident properties, the outcome is worse than if averages are compared. Many mountain residents have suffered property tax increases between 50-60% higher than the rates paid before being forcibly annexed by Abbotsford.

You conclude by arguing that, “Given the fact that none of these municipalities have a municipal police force and therefore have no budget line for Police, I would suggest that Abbotsford’s taxes are very favourable. As a matter of fact, this year’s budget allocates 28% to Police. Increase each of their tax figures by that percentage and we may have a more accurate comparison.”

I remind you that the City of Abbotsford chose municipal policing rather than RCMP because it claimed, at the time, that it was more effective and would save taxpayers money. You can’t have it both ways. Turns we were mislead on both counts. Your cost of policing argument is invalid. It simply further underlines the validity of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business’ findings.

Given that you brought up municipal police costs, Abbotsford taxpayers are reminded that its previous police chief had declared “There are no gangs in Abbotsford” not long before taxpayers were forced to spend millions trying to contain local homegrown gangs who had turned Abbotsford into Canada’s murder capital in the interim. This argument is also not helping make your point.

In conclusion, I am asking you to consider voting against the YMCA taxpayer funding proposal for the many compelling reasons stated here and by others.

City of Abbotsford Council Request:

In the alternative, If you are unwilling to vote against the YMCA taxpayer funding gift, please accept this as my formal request that the City of Abbotsford take this issue to City residents for a referendum vote: Please include an audited valuation of the agreements full-term-aggregate-costs that taxpayers will ultimately be liable for.

I look forward to your response.

I request that the City ‘Receive” this email debate.

Walter Neufeld

**Please let me know if you would prefer to be removed from this broadcast list. Your email address will be deleted and not shared.

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