July 20, 2016 News

The Province of British Columbia recently informed the UNA Board that we will now join other municipalities, including the UEL, in paying for fire protection services.

The cost for fire protection services will be:

  • $500K payable in our budget year 2016-17.
  • $1M payable in our budget year 2017-18.
  • $1M+ payable in subsequent years.

The new fee is significant, however, the Board has a clear process to manage this issue. We are confident that we will manage the impact to our residents. The UNA and UBC are collaborating through the recently-established Joint Financial Task Force. The Task Force is exploring opportunities for the UNA to raise new revenues and to save costs without reducing resident service levels.

Current tax rates for residents (the combination of rural tax rate and service levy) will not be impacted.

Information for UNA Residents

Residents living in UBC neighbourhoods, unlike residents in other unincorporated areas including the University Endowment Lands, do not currently pay a fee for fire protection services. The Province of British Columbia is restructuring this financial model.

As a result, the Province has decided that UBC neighbourhood residents will fund their share of fire protection services costs. The province will phase in the restructure, starting with half of the costs (approximately $500K) in 2016/17 and full costs (approximately $1 million) in 2017/2018. Annual fire protection service costs are projected to increase by approximately 3%-4% annually. Current tax rates for residents (the combination of rural tax rate and service levy) will not be impacted.

To manage the impact, the UNA and UBC have created a Joint Financial Task Force. The Task Force will collectively identify opportunities to minimize the impact of this change on UNA services.  Key principles of managing the financial impact include ensuring the UNA’s long-term financial health; minimizing service level impacts; and sharing the financial burden between the UNA and UBC. The process will include engagement with residents ranging from the regular sharing of information through to community conversations about options being explored and recommended.

The province is expected to recover the fire protection costs by establishing a new fire protection levy as part of residents’ rural tax (a UBC resident’s property tax bill is comprised of the provincial rural tax plus the UBC Service Levy). Current tax rates for residents (the combination of rural tax rate and service levy) will not be impacted.

This initiative also provides an opportunity to discuss other important service provision issues with the provincial government, like road jurisdiction, parking and water service.

 The UNA is committed to keeping the community informed through various mechanisms (The Campus Resident, e-blasts, web updates, and in-person events). Communications will include process updates, how the UNA is working with UBC to manage the financial impacts, and ongoing updates on outcomes as information becomes available.

 If you have any questions, please contact Jan Fialkowski, Executive Director, University Neighbourhoods Association at jan.fialkowski@myuna.ca or 604.827.5317.

Frequently Asked Questions

The province contracts the City of Vancouver to provide fire protection services to UBC, the University Endowment Lands and Pacific Spirit Park. The contract’s cost for fiscal year 2016/17 is approximately $7.1 million. The province recovers a portion of this cost from UEL residents via a general ‘rural’ tax rate that is higher than that paid by UBC neighbourhood residents.

Fire protection services for the academic campus are provided through a model similar to other universities, as a public good provided by municipal fire departments. The province has committed to continuing to fund UBC’s academic fire protection services costs.

Residents living in UBC Neighbourhoods, unlike residents in B.C.’s other unincorporated areas, do not currently pay a separate levy for fire protection. For example, the province recovers a portion of fire protection services costs from UEL residents via a general ‘rural’ tax rate that is higher than that paid by UBC neighbourhood residents residents (e.g. in 2015, the Class 1 residential rural tax rate for UEL is 0.8682 per $1,000 assessed value and for the UNA it is 0.5700 per $1,000 assessed value).

The province has reviewed this irregularity and has decided to restructure the financial model to bring UBC neighbourhood residents in line with the fire protection services funding model used in BC’s other unincorporated communities.

The Province has decided that UBC neighbourhood residents will fund their share of fire protection services costs. The province will phase in the restructure, with half of the costs (approximately $500K) starting in 2016/17 and full costs (approximately $1 million) in 2017/18. Annual fire protection services costs are projected to increase by approximately 3%-4% annually, based on the City of Vancouver’s fire protection service costs.

The share of fire protection service costs is based on the number of UBC neighbourhood residents. This is the same method the province uses calculate UEL residents’ contribution for fire protection services costs.

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Current tax rates for residents (the combination of rural tax rate and service levy) will not be impacted.

Residents in UBC neighbourhoods pay two types of ‘property tax’: a rural tax to the province, and a services levy to UBC. The leases between UBC and residents say that these two rates combined will equal the same tax rate for an equivalent assessed property in the City of Vancouver.

This provincial decision will reduce the services levy revenue that supports the UNA’s annual budget. For 2016/17, fire protection services costs are approximately 10% of the UNA’s proposed total operating budget. In 2017/18, fire costs are forecasted to represent approximately 20% of UNA’s budget.

To manage the impact, the UNA and UBC have created a Joint Financial Task Force. The Task Force will collectively identify opportunities to minimize the impact of this change on UNA services. Key principles of managing the financial impact include ensuring the UNA’s long-term financial health; minimizing service level impacts; and sharing the financial burden between the UNA and UBC. As this work evolves, the UNA will keep the community informed.

The restructuring of the financial model for fire protection services also provides an opportunity to discuss other service delivery issues with the province that are of importance to the UNA and UBC. In particular, the impact of provincial road ownership on UNA neighbourhood parking and road maintenance, and the extra cost for UBC to purchase water from the regional district.

The UNA and UBC are collaborating through the recently-established Joint Financial Task Force. The Task Force is exploring opportunities for the UNA to raise new revenues and to save costs without reducing resident service levels.

The Task Force includes senior UBC and UBC Properties Trust staff, UNA Board members and staff, and residents. The Task Force will be making recommendations to the UNA and UBC Boards for decision. The process will include engagement with residents ranging from the regular sharing of information through to community conversations about options being explored and recommended.

The Task Force will keep residents informed as the process proceeds over the coming months.

The UNA is committed to communicating with the broader community through various mechanisms (The Campus Resident, e-blasts, web updates, and in-person events). Communications will include process updates, how the UNA is working with UBC to manage the financial impacts, and ongoing updates on outcomes as information becomes available.

The province informed the UNA Board of Directors of this decision in early 2016.

The UNA and UBC worked with the province to understand the full scope and impact of the changes, and to clarify the financial calculations and proposed timeline. Now that those details are understood, the UNA is informing residents.

It is not financially practical for the UNA to provide its own fire protection services. The province currently pays for fire protection services at UBC, the University Endowment Lands and Pacific Spirit Park via a contract with the City of Vancouver. The cost for fiscal 2016/2017 is approximately $7.1 million.

The province has committed to continuing to pay UBC’s academic fire protection costs (for 2016/17 approximately $5.7 million). The remaining costs are recovered from the UEL and the UNA. Fire protection services costs in municipalities with similar population size are significantly higher than the amount recovered from the UEL and the UNA.

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