OUR VIEW: It’s better than 13.6 per cent but…

We say: Council couldn’t resist the siren song of a tax increase

Okay, let’s get this straight. Three out of seven city council members predict we’re – in the words of Coun. Claire Moglove – walking towards the financial abyss with the budget drafted up this week. Yet, nobody felt compelled to lead us to a safer fiscal place?

What is it about this council that doesn’t seem to be able to resist the siren song of tax increases? Not enough council members seem willing to bite the bullet. Yet it is a politically palatable stance that would garner a lot of political support in the community.

Mayor Walter Jakeway didn’t change his tune from last year’s budget but did change his tone, which is welcome given the anguish and animosity his approach to last year’s budget generated.

The mayor is certainly willing to take the bull by the horns and wrestle municipal finances into shape. Jakeway wanted council to trim staff in order to free up money. This is an easy target, of course, and one that perhaps needs serious evaluation. Just how many staff do we need before it impacts the functioning of the city? Do we know that yet?  But council decided to tap into reserves, something that will end up burdening future city councils. The result is a 3.91 per cent tax increase for the upcoming fiscal year.

The size of the increase will probably be a little more palatable to residential taxpayers than last year’s 13.6 but it does nothing to radically change the approach to municipal financing. Would it be possible to just try no tax increase for once? We just had to go to nearly four per cent?

Paying the piper was a phrase used more than once in this week’s budget deliberations. We will have to pay the piper sometime, unless the economy picks up and Campbell River attracts more residents and therefore generates more tax revenue. It’s not a faint hope given the two big capital projects coming online in the next few years – the John Hart Dam upgrade and the new Campbell River hospital.

So, we’ll squeak through the next few years and hope nothing goes sour.