Campbell Riverites head to the polls on Feb. 27 to fill the empty seat on city council.

Campbell Riverites head to the polls on Feb. 27 to fill the empty seat on city council.

Municipal By-Election Candidates answer: Do Campbell Riverites get good value for their tax dollars?

Candiates in Feb. 27 by-election chime on on how the city uses citizens’ tax money

In an ongoing series leading up to the Feb. 27 municipal by-election, the Mirror will be asking the candidates a series of questions about why they want to be on Campbell River City Council, what perspectives they will bring to the position and what they hope to accomplish should they win the open seat.

For question No. 3, we asked: Do you feel Campbell Riverites are getting good value for their tax dollars? Why or why not?

Their responses are as follows, in alphabetical order, exactly as they were submitted.

Ken Blackburn

I would say overall yes. But we have to put into perspective an understanding of what taxation is for. Taxes must be seen as a resourceful tool to assist us in building what we envision our community to be. If we want to build a house, we know we need the essential tools – hammer, saw, tape measure for example. If we see our community as a house, then taxation is one of the essential tools we need in order to build according to our plans.

Taxation should align with our strategic planning. The SOCP will be revisited over the coming year. From that strategic document, we can then begin budgeting how we plan to build our visions. No doubt key issues will be managing through Covid, will be housing and homelessness, will be the opioid crises, environmental sustainability, public safety, cultural capacity, tourism, community development, infrastructure maintenance. All of these issues are inter-related and budgeting should be viewed as interconnected.

As I have said previously in this paper, it is important that we work from our strengths and attend to our challenges from the position of these strengths. I feel the City is in a solid position at the moment and one that should allow us the ability to address what the community identifies as its priorities. We must be prudent in our planning however – we can’t allow taxation to simply increase every year.

Doug Chapman

No, I do not think that, overall, Campbell Riverites are getting good value for their tax dollars. When you exclude the emergency services, which is a service that we all hope that we never need to call upon, and focus on those services that we directly utilize, it is not a pretty site. When I moved to Campbell River in 2008, when there was a sizable snowfall, the residential areas would have some limited snow ploughing. I am talking about when the snow stays for a couple of weeks. Usually, we would get ploughed out once. The last big snowfall we had was in 2016/2017. We had several snow falls with accumulations of 14 cm (7 inches) or more. It got to the point where smaller vehicles were getting high centred and unable to move. It was several weeks before many residential areas saw a snow plough, and when we did, a mess because the City was now trying to plough frozen snow that was now compacted on the road way.

I think that our neighbourhood parks could be better maintained, and in some cases improved. We cannot continue to dilute the park maintenance funding by adding new parks to be maintained and not increasing funding for park maintenance.

Kealy Donaldson

Yes, I do feel Campbell River gets good value for their tax dollars. As you look around at our beautiful seaside community, you know we are blessed in this location! COCR hosts gorgeous parks and playgrounds, adding upgrades to our Seawalk, Discovery Pier, new public spaces and more. City Services are strong and COCR staff work hard to keep up with the demands of this growing community. Facility and infrastructure upgrades have been on-going here and not without their issues. Willow Point survived construction on their overdue upgrades and now is a wonderful pocket neighbourhood with a thriving retail and business sector again.

Is there room for improvement? Absolutely! As Campbell River continues to grow, so does our tax base – which is good news for us. If our economics takes a turn again and we lose Aquaculture as an industry here, it is going to be harder and harder to accomplish new infrastructure projects and maintain what we have. An example of this is still plaguing neighbouring communities like Gold River. They lost a large part of their tax base after building a beautiful community centre and are still struggling to keep the doors of this facility open – let alone losing friends, neighbours, and work mates. Now is time to start weighing in on the value of our tax base and the future needs of this community for generations to come.

Devon Garat

I think that value is inherently subjective. Campbell Riverites get good value for their tax dollars in things like safe, clean drinking water, yes. However, there are many issues such as homelessness and the lack of affordable housing that many members of our community feel are not taken seriously enough and wish to see their money used for. True, steps have been taken, but it is unfortunately often too little or too late. Traffic, Healthcare, Local Employment and Education are also often subjects of much economic concern and debate.

In a community that is seeing more and more renters, and virtually no new business development, and even lost business, this means a higher price paid by a small part of the community. Good value happens when businesses open, and grow, and the taxes paid are spread among a much wider landscape.

Stephen Jewell

Mostly I have been happy with how the city is spending. If you own a boat and you are going out fishing in the Salmon Capital of the world you are going to be very impressed with the new boat ramps. The construction work along the highway between Willow Point and Campbell River looks very promising and I look forward to riding my bike along the new pathway. I love to walk our dog on the Thunderbird spit, now a place that is also enjoyed by many. Spirit Square has developed into a place for Riverites and tourist to come to and take part in the events that have been held there. Still, I can’t seem to get my mind around the cost of the new toilet in Spirit Square.$200,000 could of built a nice house, we seem to have what looks like a horse trailer for the money.

Wes Roed

Everyone is sensitive about how their tax dollars are spent and they want to see those monies used in the most economical and responsible way possible. Having said that, each of us spend our own money differently and budget according to those personal needs and interests.

What is good value? Our viewpoints might differ; however, I feel that our tax dollars are being used effectively. Do I agree with every decision made on how to use these funds, of course not? I don’t feel though, that our tax dollars are being spent frivolously either. Our taxes should be used according to a budget and a long-term strategic plan and I believe that is happening. If not, there is always room for improvement and there is always a need for new voices at the table, to ask questions: tough questions, and that is where I feel I can be of service not only to city council but to you.

Laurel Slikovic

Overall, yes, and with most (all?) budgets, and specifically publicly-funded institutions, I do see line items in which I question. As a City Councillor, I know one of my jobs will be to actively learn about and engage with the process of fiscal responsibility of this community’s tax dollars, and from what I have seen in this City Council and City staff, consistent effort is made to keep residents informed and welcome to ask questions and provide input.

The concept of bureaucracy is one that often pits private business against public institutions, so I do plan to dig deeper into how and why this continues to be a source of contention within our community (and one that often costs money on both sides, which isn’t in either side’s best interest). If we can streamline certain processes, we can reallocate those resources to more effectively service our community in places that need funds.

And I support initiatives that reinvest in our local businesses and organizations. Social procurement policies that leverage community tax dollars back into local spending to the benefit of those who live and work and play right here in Campbell River is something I want to see within our City.

Sean Smyth

When you compare the tax rate in Campbell River to larger municipalities, you would be tempted to say no. This comparison is deceiving as larger communities are able to spread the financial burden over a higher tax base to pay for its services.

Campbell River has not been able to grow at the same level as its operating budget. The restrictive growth of the tax base annually increases the burden on the existing taxpayers. The current administration has adopted a policy of actively restricting the Urban Containment Boundary. They are pushing density in single family residence neighbourhoods while restricting the development of new lots.

At the same time, the operating cost of City Hall has grown without the residential and industrial tax base to support it. This exponential tax growth trend is quickly moving into dangerous levels. Administration needs to expand the city boundary for allowance of new neighborhoods. These new neighborhoods become tax base contributors while relieving the pressure on the current inventory and purchase cost of a home in the city.

Both Council and the Administration will have to be very focused on the operating costs and inefficiencies into the future.

RELATED: Municipal By-Election Candidates answer: Do you feel the current council is doing enough?

RELATED: Municipal By-Election Candidates answer: What unique perspective or skill set would you bring to City Hall?

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