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LETTER: Former councillor pans parcel tax

As most of us know the City budget is very complex and takes considerable time to put together. Weighing out what to fund and what not to fund or somewhere in between can be very stressful for those directly involved.

My experience has been that decisions made by our elected officials are done with the best intentions using the best available information at the time. Every decision has pros and cons that are exposed through full analysis. Public understanding is one of many variables. No matter how good the project or budget item Council thinks it will be for Castlegar it may not fly or have trouble flying due to a lack of understanding in the decision making process by the residents that are expected to pay for it.

I am not attempting to debate the merits or priority of budget items. There is no right or wrong answer, just opinions and Council has chosen theirs.

However I do wish to state that I fundamentally disagree with using a parcel tax to pay for storm water infrastructure or anything else for that matter. The parcel tax is a regressive form of taxation that does not respect property values or the ability to pay.

In my experience a general tax increase of more than 3% no matter what the actual dollars are is typically more difficult for taxpayers to accept as reasonable especially taxpayers with fixed incomes. So what to do?

I am sure that City Council would first re-evaluate their priorities. If a project or budget item remains a high priority then you need to reduce other items to compensate. It’s all about balance. If the overall tax increase is still greater than what is considered acceptable then be prepared to provide enough time for public consultation. That is the key my friends, City Council must provide enough time for meaningful public consultation. If it takes the remainder of this year to do that, then so be it.

I suggest that City Council put the parcel tax on hold till the next budget cycle and provide a meaningful opportunity for public consultation. I further suggest that a 1 year delay in a 10 year storm water infrastructure project is not unreasonable.

The path forward may be difficult but that’s City Council’s job. A job perhaps made a little bit easier if the taxpayers can see that at the end of the day the City’s strategic plan is sound and the tax load is being fairly distributed.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Kirk Duff.