Tax increase 3.25% – Statement I made prior to voting against – 6-1 Vote FINAL

December 10, 2013

First off I would like to compliment staff particularly on the Financial Overview Report. I really look forward to the feedback from the public!  I appreciate the time and work that went into this years financial process and thank staff for bringing back to Council an even lower increase than was suggested by the majority of Council.

With that being said I will explain why I will be voting against this increase tonight.  When being asked to approve the budget, the entire time I am reviewing it, I ask myself is this the best we can do? Have we had all the conversations as a council necessary in order to get taxes their lowest possible. Unfortunately,  I do not believe that we have.

We as a Council seem to have accepted the Corporate philosophy that line items do not have an impact on the bottom line and that only major cost drivers are where we can have any influence over reducing taxes.  As a business person I completely disagree with this mentality but being an objective thinker, if that is the case (that we only need to be looking at major cost drivers), then why aren’t we discussing staff wages and benefits.  I have asked to have this put on an agenda several times. Secondly, we have multi-million dollar decisions that were made a decade ago, and although I appreciate the concept of it being already approved and in the work plan from that long ago, again as a business minded person I would never not revisit the financial implications of multi-million dollar decisions a decade later. When I was first elected I was told by both members of council and members of staff that you cannot run a municipality like a business and I completely disagree and believe that is exactly what we should be doing.

We are making a 100 M dollar decision tonight. Although staff has had direction from Council, I believe we as a Council need to be having more discussions prior to approving the budget.  The final version was presented to us yesterday.   We moved approval for the financial plan the same day. I disagree with having the final budget presented to us and then being asked to vote on moving it forward to council on the same day for the next night. I believe Council should have at least one more conversation and have a working session to still be able to have influence prior to its finality.  And I believe this should be done without every senior manager in attendance.

I find that most people accept taxes are a part of life and don’t mind paying them as long as two things are happening:

1) They are getting a Value for their tax dollars
2) They can afford further tax increases

What I am hearing from the public across all economic spectrums is that we can’t afford further tax increases.  The way our society is operating has double income families paying 42% of their annual income to taxes at one level or another.

What about our citizens on fixed incomes?  They absolutely can’t afford increases.  When are we as a council going to have the discussion about those who can’t afford our increases?  I believe the consequences of our decision making is our responsibility also. We are always comparing ourselves to other communities, other communities are doing better with their tax rates and I believe we absolutely can do better too.

One last comment, I would like to see all budget planning discussions be recorded.  This is one of the most important meetings we have and it is during work hours it should absolutely be recorded.




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