Doug Robson approached city council Monday morning, lugging a big, bulky bag down to the speaker’s table.
No one could have guessed there were props inside Robson’s bright green sack.
As Robson told council it needs to find a way to save money, he whipped out a gold-plated shovel.
“We don’t want it and we don’t need it,” said Robson.
Then, he bent down again and from his bag came up with a plain old, steel shovel.
“This is what we need,” said Robson. “No perks, no frills.
“If I can find savings, why can’t our city manager? Manage our money, find ways to reduce expenses and be that city manager your resume says you are,” Robson told new city manager Andy Laidlaw.
Robson also pleaded with council to not raise residential taxes. He said this year his pension payments have increased by $15.71 every month but even with the extra change, it’s not enough to cover the essentials.
“I cannot handle a tax increase or I’m going to have to eat cat food,” said Robson, whose delegation prompted a round of applause from spectators. “Ladies and gentlemen, zero increase is all I can afford, thank-you.”
Robson was one of seven Campbell Riverites who used the delegation period on day one of council’s financial deliberations to provide input into the 2011 budget.
Lorne Harron, who spoke on behalf of the new United Rate Payers group, said members are concerned about council’s spending habits.
“City spending is out of control and has been for years,” said Harron. “You don’t ever concern yourself with what you spend, you just milk the cash cow to death.”
Harron noted that even when Elk Falls mill was up and running and the city was booming, his taxes still went up year after year.
“I don’t understand how you can blame the situation on the mill,” he told council. “Admit it, you’ve never been able to control your spending and you never will. Just stop wasteful spending.”
Harron also blamed council for the lack of people who showed up to provide input into the budget during three open houses as well as delegation sessions prior to three council meetings last month.
“Please don’t ask for our input because you’re not interested,” said Harron. “And I don’t want you to get the impression that most of these people are here today because you invited them; it’s because I invited them,” said Harron, referring to the full gallery.
Coun. Andy Adams rejected Harron’s claim, saying everyone’s input is valuable to council.
“We may not agree with everything but we appreciate hearing people’s views,” said Adams. “We’re going to listen to all aspects and at the end of the day take it all into consideration. We do value all the comments and everybody’s contribution.”
Mayor Charlie Cornfield said council “needs to listen carefully to what we all have to say and do what’s best for the city.”
Larry Foort told council he would be willing to deal with the fallout from more cuts – even if it means eliminating services completely – and even pay more taxes if it will get the city out of the hole.
“Let’s get on with balancing the budget,” said Foort. “If we have to have a little tax increase this year we’ll live with it.
“If (a city service) doesn’t put bread on the table or pay the rent, get rid of it.”
Cornfield replied “there’s never been a good time to raise taxes and we’ve all been under pressure to cut services and not raise taxes.
“But we’re at the point we can’t cut much further or we may have to eliminate some services.”
“Like a family we have to tighten our belts and eliminate nice-to-do’s. We have to learn to just say no,” said Cornfield. “We can’t keep expecting the city to do it all and not see costs increase.”