Reviewing our new Council’s first taxation plan I was pleased to see a reduction from last year’s taxes levied by our previous Council. After our last Council’s departure after increasing our taxes by 40% in their four year tenor some major reductions are due. Due to over taxation we are now sitting on over 7 million dollars in reserves which Lord help us no current Council will try to spend on a Taj mahal of a new City Hall.
This year’s 1.5% taxation reduction is certainly a step in the right direction and in keeping with the campaign promises made by our new Mayor and Councilors. They have, as promised, gone through the budget line by line looking for efficiencies. In the big picture the initial reduction is small but currently they are still dealing with the liabilities and financial initiatives of the past administrations.
I am somewhat confused by the fact that Councilor Archer was against this decrease with the approach that they would have to increase taxes more next year to make up for it. As our taxes reasonably should have increased 2% per year over the past four years current Council is sitting on a 32% increase that MUST be corrected and the trend to overtax us to increase a cookie jar of financial reserves must be stopped.
Prior to the election at the all candidates meeting that drew the largest crowd in the history of the town, the public made clear that they wanted representation that was fiscally responsible and openly transparent. The voters proved this by overwhelmingly ousting the past council and voting in those who promised fiscal responsibility and transparency.
As members of Council we want the constant question asked of every dollar spent HOW DOES THIS SERVE THE TAX PAYER. Yes we want to see improvements to Downtown Barrys Bay, yes we want community programs and services but these must be kept at a level reasonable to the community at large.
The major portion of our taxes come from seasonal residents who use the least of the services, they do not protest monies spent on a healthy community but look for reasonable taxation. Promises were made to focus on core services first and responsible community spending, we look forward to nothing less.
I am pleased that we are replacing the street lights in Barry’s Bay with new Led lights and was at the meeting where it was explained that this would create long term cost savings in equipment and hydro. It does make sense to me that the $174,000.00 to do this comes out of cash reserves, but the proposal that we be taxed over the next ten years to pay back the cash reserves makes no sense at all. Thank heavens that Council turned down the staff proposal to charge us interest on this loan of our own money as well.
I do not blame staff as this kind of thinking probably reflects past practices and expectations of them but this approach is not in keeping with the change we all voted for. Between last year’s surplus of $110000.00 and the cost recovery of two land sales of approximately $365,000.00 we do not expect to be re-taxed to pay back our own money when we were told that long term these new lights will save to create their own cost recovery.
It is wonderful to see our Mayor and Council recovering our taxes spent on past land speculations and I congratulate both them and staff for their success in this.
In future our expectations are simple, Transparency in their actions, Prudence in their spending, and Lower taxation.
Citizens Action Committee Member