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These fees may go up to help lower Vancouver’s property tax hike

Licenses for running businesses and adopting exotic birds are among the things that could be getting more expensive in Vancouver

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If your bird is considered “exotic” or your dog “aggressive” in Vancouver, it will likely soon cost you more.

Higher licence fees for those two types of pets are among several things the city is considering to raise more money.

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Next week, council will consider a range of ways to raise money through means other than property taxes.

This comes as many municipalities are struggling financially. Vancouver’s city manager wrote in a report earlier this year that the city was facing “extraordinary fiscal pressures.”

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The challenge is that while city hall needs more money to run Vancouver properly, the city’s public finances are funded by its people and businesses, an increasing number of whom are struggling with their own bills as the cost of almost everything keeps going up.

Property taxes are the city’s primary means of raising revenue, and last year Vancouver required a 10.7 per cent increase, the largest in recent memory, to balance the books. Mayor Ken Sim has pledged not to cut important city services, but also said that large property tax increases “could not become the norm.”

Two reports on next week’s council agenda look at raising revenue through user fees and other non-tax avenues: One seeks council’s approval to increase fees for vehicles for hire, animal control, and business licences, and another providing an update on continuing work on a range of “opportunities for increased revenues.”

The work looking at new revenue opportunities includes considering sponsorship and naming rights and looking to expand paid parking in the city, as my last column noted.

Meanwhile, city staff are seeking council’s approval on fee increases for 2024, some of which are bigger than others.

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Staff recommend increasing most licence, animal, and vehicle-for-hire fees by six per cent, “given present inflationary pressures that considerably exceed historical levels.”

But business licences will increase further, especially in a few sectors which city staff say have inexpensive licences compared to other municipalities. While the standard business licence — which the city says covers 80 per cent of its licensees — would increase by about 45 per cent from $171 to $250, trade contractors would double from $171 to $340 and general contractors increase by about 65 per cent ($207 to $340).

A regular dog licence would increase by about 25 per cent, from $49 to $61. While this fee would still not fully recover costs, the staff report says, it is closer to other Metro Vancouver municipalities and increasing the fee further could result in fewer people obtaining licences.

This is also the first year the city will have an “aggressive dog licence.” Starting this January, Vancouver dog owners who have received an “aggressive dog letter” from the city must apply for a special licence. This costs $200 and includes a red octagon-shaped tag for the dog to wear, identifying it to others.

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This is not necessarily based on breed, but the courts or the city’s animal services department can deem a dog aggressive if it attacks a person or pet without provocation.

This new licence is intended to partly fund the city’s work on rehabilitating aggressive dogs, after the previous council approved the new approach in 2022.

Another specialized type of pet licence is being proposed for exotic birds. Licenses for other kinds of birds like parakeets or lovebirds cost $19. But when exotic birds, which have higher life expectancies, are abandoned, it often means higher costs for Vancouver animal services as they may not be adopted quickly.

City staff propose creating a new $300 fee for adopting exotic birds such as Amazon parrots, cockatoos and macaws.

“Due to level of care, and longevity of animals, the higher fee reflects commitment adopters need to be prepared for,” the report says, noting that exotic bird adoption fees in other jurisdictions range from $400 and $1,000.

Staff estimate that if council approves all the recommended fee hikes, it would generate an additional $5 million.

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