A tax petition calling on council to have more fiscal restraint has garnered more than 1,250 signatures.
About 40 residents packed into council chambers on Monday night to show support for the petition, which was presented to council by Ray Zervini.
“The residents of Hope believe that we’re being taxed enough for what we’re getting and we believe now is the time to look at maybe cutting services or cutting costs,” he said.
“We’ve had enough of the tax increases. We just can’t afford to live in Hope or any other municipality and receive the taxes that we are.”
The petition demands zero tax increases for the next three years and a review of all current and future spending. Zervini said the names on the petition represent one signature per tax residence or business.
Council was also given a list of suggested tax saving measures by Zervini’s group that include cutting district office staff by 25 per cent, reducing council to four members before the next election, removing foremen positions from public works, re-evaluating the fire chief position (i.e. amalgamate fire chief with the regional district and local First Nations to offset costs), renegotiating the RCMP building lease, re-evaluating the number of police officers in Hope, renegotiating road use costs with Nestlé Waters and seeking water royalties of 0.05/bottle.
“We’re looking at the big picture and trying to throw some ideas and maybe open the discussion up to what may be a way of cutting our costs,” said Zervini. “We’re hoping that with this petition town council will look at ways of reducing taxes.”
Mayor Susan Johnston expressed her gratitude to residents for taking the time to provide council with input.
“We will take everything you say seriously and we will deal with it as we can,” she said. “If we can’t put taxes up, then we have to cut deep. The cutting is going to start very shortly.”
Coun. Peter Robb pointed out that council did make several cuts this year in the budget. Given the concerns raised by residents, he said another “hard look” is in order, but noted with cuts comes a reduction in services.
“All of us are taxpayers and all us want to do the best we can for the community,” he said. “All of our taxes went up. You can bet that this council is on the same page.”