Big property tax hike worries Langley business owners

Mayor says 11.56 per cent tax increase will help “close the gap” on needed investments in the community

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By Joyce Liew

Business owners in the City of Langley are bracing for an unusually big property tax increase this year.

Earlier this month, Langley City council approved a general property tax increase of 11.56 per cent to cover its new five-year financial plan, which covers 2023 to 2027.

Langley City Mayor Nathan Pachal said the increase is to “close the gap” on infrastructure investment. While some business owners and homeowners are complaining about the big tax hike, Pachal says renewing the 100-year-old sewer infrastructure will benefit local businesses and residents.

“We’re using the money to invest in our community,” Pachal said.

Cory Redekop, CEO of Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce, said the unprecedented tax increase is “a huge challenge for business” as property taxes are just one of many taxes business face from various governments.

“That’s on top of your payroll tax went up earlier this year,” Redekop said, adding that every dollar counts for small businesses. “Whenever any tax or fee goes up, that’s money that comes out of the business.”

Redekop said businesses are not only competing locally, but with businesses from other provinces, internationally and with e-commerce organizations like Amazon.

Redekop said small businesses are “not sitting on big pools of money that some people think they are,” and are not able to invest in their own operations such as marketing or hiring full-time employees.

“These are dollars that would go back into the business to make it more productive,” he said. “Instead, it is being pulled … out of the business and into government.”

“They’re [businesses] not looking six years down the line. They’re trying to get through the next six weeks or six months,” he said. Businesses expect incremental tax increases, like three or four per cent, he said, which would be better than surprising them with something as large as this year’s increase.

Ken Boyce, owner of Kitchen Concepts in Langley, said such a large tax increase – about three times as high as last year’s — could cause some small businesses to shut down.

Boyce said business owners are “busy running their businesses trying to stay alive,” and he has seen a slow-down in activity for the past three months as people are concerned with the economy. His company is not alone, he said, as other businesses face similar struggles.

With the increased tax burden, he said it is challenging for the business to pass the costs to customers due to the competitive market.

The city is allocating the property taxes in investments such as preparing for SkyTrain, renewing infrastructure, and improving public safety.

Pachal, the mayor, said SkyTrain will help local businesses by driving more traffic which will bring in more customers like other busy transit-oriented destinations, citing the Burnaby neighbourhoods of Metrotown and Brentwood.

The provincial government is distributing a one-time grant of $7.2 million to Langley City, but Pachal said he does not think the city can use that money to lower taxes.

“But let’s say we were allowed to [reduce property tax], all we would be doing is making a problem for next year,” he said.

Redekop, representing Langley’s businesses, expressed their “shock” at an 11.56 per cent increase at a February council meeting.

But Pachal said to the Voice: “Not one single business owner reached out to me” to raise the issue.

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