Langley City Mayor Peter Fassbender, who chairs the TransLink Mayors' Council, is pleading with fellow mayors to support a TransLink plan to pay for its share of the Evergreen Line construction with added property taxes, if absolutely necessary.
He made his plea at Tuesday night's Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce meeting. He and TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis were the guest speakers.
Mayors of all communities within the Metro Vancouver boundaries will decide on Dec. 9 whether to support or reject one of two supplemental plans. One would provide enough funding for the Evergreen Line extension and a start to work on North Fraser Perimeter Road, while the other would add extra bus service as well. While both call for increased property taxes, TransLink says it may not be necessary to raise taxes — if other sources of revenue come through.
Many mayors, including Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts and Langley Township Mayor Rick Green, say they will vote against any plan that has the potential to increase property taxes. They fear that a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the province, which promises to look at all potential sources of revenue for TransLink (including the carbon tax), will be ignored by the provincial government as it undergoes a change in leaders and faces possible defeat, either through recall or an election.
Fassbender said the MOU is a breakthrough for local governments, as the province has finally agreed to take a look at sources of revenue for TransLink "across the board."
"I do not believe that, long-term, the property tax is the most appropriate source of TransLink funding," he said.
But he added that the mayors' council needs to support raising it by 2012 as a fall back position, because the sources of funding for the Evergreen Line, a long-promised rapid transit extension to Coquitlam, must be in place by the end of the year.
Fassbender acknowledged that some mayors do not believe that the province will keep its commitment made in the MOU. He disagrees with them.
"I believe the current government will honour the principle of the thing, and we as mayors have to live up to our commitment. We have an obligation to get on with the Evergreen Line."
Fassbender recognizes that it will be an uphill battle to convince enough mayors to vote for a potential property tax increase in December, "but I'm going to give it my best shot."
The Langley City mayor said the public wants politicians to get on with planning transportation improvements in the region, and to think long-term,"instead of in three-year election cycles."