We were curious to see how District Council would handle this year’s budget. Would an acknowledgement of the tough economic times facing taxpayers lead to belt-tightening or salary freezes, would the budget reflect the comprehensive review promised during the by-election or would council, faced with rising costs, increase taxes?
The answers appear to be no, apparently not and yes.
A one per cent increase – or decrease – in municipal taxes is the equivalent of about $14,000. That’s a pittance in a $4 million or $8 million budget. However, we thought holding the line might at least acknowledge that the District, in Bill Clinton’s famous words, “feels your pain.” As for the review, when we think of reviews, many people think of staff salaries. But council has renewed the contracts of its senior management for four more years. We question how you can have a review of services without including the salaries and performance of the staff managing those services.
Council bought itself some time with the decisions it made. We hope it spends the next year vigorously pursuing its efforts to expand Lillooet’s boundaries to incorporate BC Hydro installations and to restructure the Hydro grant allocations at the SLRD level so that Lillooet finally receives its fair share of those grants, leading to a more sustainable tax base. That’s the type of creative, aggressive, outside-the-box thinking Lillooet needs.
The mayor’s comment that taxes will have to be raised if those new initiatives don’t pan out leads to these questions: What about the other side of the ledger? What about making tough but necessary decisions to cut spending? We believe there is a limit to taxpayers’ willingness to pay and pay and pay. Obviously, core services are essential, but how do we define a core service? There are other, more discretionary services and programs that need to be closely examined to see if the community is getting bang for our bucks.
Council faces tough decisions on this issue and this is one instance where community input, through town hall meetings or an advisory committee, would be beneficial.