I feel compelled to write this letter on behalf of the District of Hope council, in response to the letter in last week’s paper written by Pat Furness.
We (council) spent many hours pouring over this year’s budget. As most of you know we are required by law to present a balanced budget each year. Over the past 10 plus years, the councils of the day with respect tried to keep taxes from going up more than four or five per cent. This was accomplished by using the district reserves to cover any shortfalls. We are reaching a point by where, if we continue with this trend, we will reduce our reserves to an unhealthy level, which we are committed to not do. The costs of running this municipality are going up at a much greater rate because our federal and provincial governments have cut our funding to the bone and have downloaded a lot of further costs onto us. It is quite simply the cost of doing business in a municipality of this size, that is too big to be small and too small to be big.
(This is the over 5,000 in population compared to the under 5,000.)
Council listened to the concerns of local businesses. We have done away with the perception of being not friendly to business and investment. The budget that was passed this year has aligned the tax rate ratios to be more competitive with our neighboring communities as we do compete with them for business and industry. The residential assessment did see an increase but the rates for businesses and industry in our community were brought down to where they need to be.
Further, I have heard a great deal about the district having too large a staff. I would like to put this perception to rest. We have just the right amount of staff that we need and require to keep this community running adequately. Although we are one of the smaller communities, the requirements and functions are the same as any large centre. We cannot live in the past and dwell on what was done years ago. We are in the here and now and must function as such. We are moving forward, we are growing, and our cup is half full not half empty!
I took a tour of Hope on Sunday, something I do regularly, and I saw some pretty deep potholes, absolutely! We need road and street upgrades, no doubt, and this is on our list of priorities. We will get these done as soon as humanly possible. What I did not see to any degree, was the terrible state that was described by Ms. Furness! While we do have some derelict buildings and eye sores, a good number of these buildings and the properties are owned by people who do not live in Hope any longer and we are working very hard to get them to clean up these places! We absolutely cannot go on to these properties and tear them down. There are rules, laws and regulations and we need to follow those or risk being sued. It is frustration at its best, however, our hands are tied. That said, we are working on these properties with the owners and we are seeing positive cooperation which leads to positive results.
This letter just touches on a few of the comments I read in the paper. I trust most taxpayers recognize that as the cost of everything goes up, so must the taxes. B.C Assessment Authority may very well be who you need to speak with because your tax is calculated in part on the assessed value of your home and property.
To clarify, we have seven members of council. Mayor and six councillors, this number has been the same since amalgamation. What I can tell you is that you are getting a great deal with your council. We are paid very, very little, not much more than what it takes to cover our expenses – we are equal to most volunteers in our community. I am very proud of the work that we all do and the work of the fine staff that we employ to work with us.
I trust that you will find this letter helpful and informative in some small way. We live in one of the most beautiful, warm, spiritually rich places on this Earth. Let us keep moving forward and looking up! Thank you!
Hope Mayor Susan Johnston