I found the nature of Mayor Johnston’s comments quite interesting in last week’s article entitled, “Petition aims to halt tax increases.”
The mayor was quoted as saying, “We have to do what we think is right. We have an obligation as mayor and council to pay the bills and we can’t pay the bills unless we increase taxes.”
As co-author of the tax petition with Ray Zervini and having attained at least 200 signatures myself, I can assure the mayor that those signing our petition want council to honour their basic financial commitments, such as the interest payments on our increasing debt load, but at the same time, examine every viable option to reduce current and future spending so we can avoid another hefty tax increase next year.
The property tax of one of my friends went up 100 per cent in the last three years while another witnessed a 40 per cent increase this last year alone.
Her Honour’s words of, “We are doing this because we’re looking after their needs. Those needs and costs continue to rise,” provide little comfort, especially to those on a fixed income.
Many of the recent people who signed our petition (that grows on average by 50 signatures a day) wonder how truly fragile the nature of our town’s financial state is, based on the mayor’s comment on a zero per cent tax increase. She remarked, “Everything will come to a screeching halt and the following year we’ll declare bankruptcy because there’s no alternative.”
The mayor could easily have said that district council are more than willing to look at any viable proposals that would assist in reducing the town’s spending in the short and long term, but this was not the case. Council used $500,000 from the reserve fund alone this year just to balance the books.
So raising taxes allows us to proceed with “business as usual.” Maybe what is needed is a hard look at what is now considered to be usual operation of our District of Hope. I am confident that the ideas our group presents to council will provide the foundation to key talking points now and for the next civic election. The voices of the people who signed our petition will resonate loud and clear through the changes they believe need to take place in our town to reduce the current level of spending.
As a side note, I would like to clarify that our group is exploring the tax-saving option of closing C.E. Barry School – not Silver Creek Elementary School. We believe the planned B.C. government seismic upgrade of approximately two million dollars is a waste of taxpayer money for a school that could potentially be closed due to declining enrolment.