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Campbell River city councillors stand by their tax hike

Taxpayers hoping for council to reverse its decision on a tax hike will likely be in for disappointment as councillors who voted in favour of the 13.6 increase are standing by their decision.

More than 100 Campbell Riverites marched from Robert Ostler Park to city hall protesting the residential tax increase before last week’s council meeting.

More than 130 packed council chambers to listen in on the meeting.

Taxpayers on the Campbell River Tax Revolt Facebook page say they plan to come out in even larger numbers this coming Tuesday – when council is expected to give first three readings to the budget – to have their voices heard and sway councillors who voted for the tax increase.

Councillors Ryan Mennie, Claire Moglove, Mary Storry and Larry Samson voted in favour while Mayor Walter Jakeway and councillors Andy Adams and Ron Kerr were opposed.

It doesn’t look like that will change.

Mennie said he could appreciate that people came to the meeting to have their voices heard but he hasn’t changed his mind.

“It certainly was heard,” Mennie said. “While I appreciate them coming forward and giving their perspective, my perspective hasn’t changed. I appreciate the community dialogue and it’s never been the intention of council to stifle that dialogue but I still think I represent a large part of the community with my perspective.”

Mennie also noted it wasn’t a “snap decision” but based on extensive information from the community as well as from this year’s and last year’s budget cycles.

Mayor Jakeway said last week he was confident taxpayers could change council’s decision on the 13.6 per cent (7.1 per cent after reduced user fees are factored in) residential tax increase.

“I don’t have any doubt at all, if they respond en masse,” Jakeway said. “It just takes one vote and it becomes 4-3 (the other way).”

But the chances of that happening now look pretty slim.

Coun. Storry said she confidently voted in favour of the tax increase because of the lengthy discussions council and city staff have had during the budget creation process.

“The only reason I would re-consider anything is if new information was brought to council,” Storry said. “It would have to be something that was missed during the debate or incorrect information that I based my decision on.”

Coun. Samson said the same thing as Storry – no new information has come forward to change his mind.

“When you make a decision as serious as the budget that was voted on, unless there’s extenuating circumstances, the vote that you take at that time, you normally thought about it long and hard,” Samson said. “Having said that, I’m still talking with people who both agree with the budget and who disagree with the budget.”

Samson pointed out that council is done with service cuts and has already taken money from reserves to balance a $3.6 million deficit. The tax increase was the third option.

“To re-visit the budget – where would we go from here?” Samson said. “But having said all this, we’re constantly looking at budget deficiencies.”

Coun. Moglove, the fourth councillor to vote in favour of the tax increase, was not available for comment but a few days after the March 27 vote, took exception to the mayor advocating for a tax revolt and not supporting council’s decision.

“I’m concerned,” she said. “Once council has made a decision, it is the mayor’s duty and responsibility to speak in support of that majority decision. The mayor is the spokesperson for council and as such, the comments attributed to him are very disappointing.”

Moglove also advocated for a tax increase over cuts to the existing level of city services.

If council passes first three readings of the budget bylaw on Tuesday night, the budget is expected to be adopted on May 1.

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