As I See It
Are you like me, a person who doesn’t mind paying my fair share of taxes to the Municipality to provide core service such as water, sewer, roads, etc.? We all know that the costs related to running a community like ours are going up and we see that there may be a need to raise taxes. What I question is why are so many costs of the costs not related to core services going up so much?
In a recent issue of the Citizen it states that Lake Cowichan has announced that they are raising their tax rate by 3 per cent and the City of Duncan is raising its taxes by only by 2.5 per cent, while Ladysmith is talking about being just under 4 per cent. A four per cent increase doesn’t sound like much, but we have to look at the bigger picture. How much more will we be paying? When you get your tax bill in July it will be a lot more than 4 per cent. It will include not only the Municipal tax increase and an increase in your “parcel” for water, but it will also include an increase of 8.5per cent for policing, another 8.1 per cent increase for library costs. You will also see a 28 per cent increase your CVRD tax. This increase reflects the transfer of the costs for running the BC Transit system here in town. The increase in CVRD hospital taxes hasn’t been determined at the time of last request. So expect to dig deep into your wallet.
I have no problem paying for core services, items that relate to public health, public safety and good roads. I question things like annual salaries for non unionized staff. Non unionized staff wages range from a low of $104,600.00 to a high of $175,965.00 (including benefits). Since 2011 the administrative salary costs to run the Town has gone up $232,166.00 or 26.18 per cent (partially because of two new staff position being added), while other have increased significantly. Some of our Town staff have seen increases over the past two years of 7.5 per cent, 8.6 per cent, 10.4 per cent and one as high as 15.4 per cent.
It makes you wonder what increase in wages are projected for this year? The Town is in negotiation with CUPE and is limited as what it can do, as the contract will be influenced by other jurisdictions, but the Town can control non union staff wages. The Times Colonist recently reported that senior staff of the Provincial Government will be getting an increase of 3 per cent after having their wages frozen since 2009. If the Town choose to freeze non union staff wages, think of how much we could save?
Do we really need a $24,000 weather station to aid Public Works when we can just go to a computer and call up the weather at the Nanaimo Airport? Do we really need three new pickup trucks budgeted for $30,000.00 each when basic Ford F150 run closer to $20,000.00 each? The cost of operating the Town’s trolley has been eliminated and transferring that cost to the CVRD, (which is the largest reason for our CVRD taxes going up), and should free up most if not all of the $160,000 that was being spent on supplying that service.
I have attended meetings of Council where the discussion revolved almost entirely on increases and more and more spending. I have yet to hear any of Councillors ask “is this really necessary”. It appears to me the only real question that Council is concerned with is how much can we raise taxes without having a tax revolt.
Ladysmith has a larger percentage of seniors that make up our population than the provincial average and in 2014 they will only experience an increase in benefits of 1 per cent for their OAP, and less than 1 per cent (0.9 per cent) in their CPP. At the same time the Consumer Price Index indicates that the basic cost of living is going up by 1.5 per cent with as much as a 4.5 per cent increase in energy cost, and 2.7 per cent increase in shelter. These increases are hurting everyone across the board. They are hurting young families, single parents as well as those on income assistance. When was your last raise, and how much was it? Our community is hurting, lots have seen little increase in their wages or salaries, social benefits, be it child support or OAP, have not even kept up with inflation, yet all levels of government have seen fit to continually raise taxes. Here in Ladysmith I question the wisdom of spending our tax dollars be they federal grants, provincial grants or our municipal tax dollars on electric car charging stations, building a rarely used bike path for a short distance beside a sidewalk. Buying an electric car for the town and a expensive Hybrid SUV so we can say we are going green. Unfortunately, the green, as I see it is our tax dollars.
On inspection of the provisional budget I see many increases in operating costs that I would like to know more about such as why has Public Works Operations (not capital costs) increased by 40.9 per cent from $421,000 to $591,000, and recreation programs operations will be spending 52.1 per cent more. What are we getting for our money?
The town has to take a good hard look at what we really need. We need to prioritize expenditures on items that the public will achieve the greatest cost benefit from.
At least that’s as I see it.
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