Campbell River taxpayers demonstrated outside city hall Tuesday night – coming out in droves to show council they will not accept a 13.6 per cent tax hike.
More than 80 people engaged in the protest, starting at Robert Ostler Park and winding up at city hall in time for Tuesday’s council meeting.
Demonstrators carried signs condemning council’s decision to increase residential property taxes, with some calling for council’s resignation.
One protester proudly carried a bright red sign with the words “Revote or Resign.”
Inside city hall, roughly 100 people filled the gallery and the foyer, forcing some to stand outside.
Philip Hicks, who organized the protest via the Campbell River Tax Revolt Facebook page, said demonstrators were very respectful.
“They were a polite crowd,” Hicks said on Facebook. “I was proud to be a member of such a considerate and adult group of protesters.
“Most were there to bear witness and show the council their will, not to speak out of turn or interrupt anything.”
Indeed, once the group entered city hall there was no chanting or shouting and no one spoke once the council proceedings got underway. But the emotion of the taxpayers was still evident.
Mayor Walter Jakeway, who last week encouraged Campbell Riverites to stage a tax revolt, entered the council chambers to a standing ovation. Coun. Ron Kerr, who supported Jakeway and is “extremely disappointed with the budget” was also treated to a round of applause as he approached the council table.
Jakeway said last week that Campbell River taxpayers “are being screwed” and asked the public to rise “and yell and scream and not accept it.”
He said he’s confident Campbell Riverites can still fight the tax increase, which passed by a 4-3 vote last week (councillors Claire Moglove, Larry Samson, Ryan Mennie and Mary Storry for and Jakeway, councillors Andy Adams and Kerr against).
Although council did not speak to the budget, Kerr made a successful motion to allow people in the gallery to speak for a maximum of three minutes at the end of the meeting. Only two people took him up on the offer.
Doug Robson, who last year spoke to council during budget time and demonstrated with props including a gold shovel and cans of tuna, returned Tuesday night and gave an impassioned speech.
“I’m still a poor, widowed senior that cannot afford a tax increase – no change from last year,” Robson said. “Last Thursday our federal budget was brought in, a budget that did not increase my taxes. They also eliminated the penny, (it’s) outlived its usefulness. Good move.
I’m here today to demand, not ask, for the resignation of four bad pennies we have on council, who have outlived their usefulness,” Robson shouted. “Taxpayers, do not accept this increase. Revolt! Stand up for yourselves. Do not accept this increase.”
Robson rose from the delegation table to a rousing round of applause from the gallery, and as he went to his seat, commented “in the good old days we used to be allowed to throw fruit.”
At the end of the meeting, Jakeway thanked everyone for attending.
“I think the point got through,” Jakeway said after the meeting wrapped up. “I was pleased with the turnout from the park, it was really good. I hope as many people show up next time (April 17 council meeting).”
As for the standing ovation?
“That was a first,” Jakeway said. “It was very encouraging, very heart warming and very invigorating.”
Jakeway said he suspects another a full house for the next council, meeting April 17.
At that meeting, council is scheduled to give first, second and third reading to the budget bylaw, and is then expected to adopt the budget May 1.
As it stands the budget includes a 13.6 per cent residential tax increase, but city staff say a $20 reduction in garbage fees, a $25 decrease in the parks parcel tax and elimination of the $10 water parcel tax, equates to a 7.1 per cent overall tax increase, or $136 more per year on the average home, assessed at $268,000.
Council went into the budget process facing a $3.6 million deficit related to a $1.8 million loss of major industry taxation due to Catalyst mill’s property re-classification; a $1.3 million increase in contract costs; and the use of $1.1 million from city reserves to balance last year’s budget.