In a 4-1 vote Monday, Courtenay council adopted a bylaw for a 2.75 per cent increase to property taxes. Coun. Manno Theos cast the dissenting vote. Mayor Bob Wells and Coun. Melanie McCollum were absent from the meeting.
Theos has been voicing his concerns about tax hikes throughout the budget deliberation process.
“What we’re looking at in terms of the (financial) plan moving forward is, in my opinion, and a lot of people in the community based on their ability to pay, not sustainable,” he said Monday. “I took on the challenge to generate some ideas that can help.”
He feels it is inaccurate to say that services decrease with no tax increase.
“If we have increased revenues, then that can offset our expenses,” Theos said. “I’m not saying that we’re going to decrease taxes, but what I am saying is that it’s incumbent upon us to do what we can to decrease tax increases.”
Coun. Doug Hillian said residents and businesses expect certain levels when it comes to services, and they want the amenities of a modern city. Reality dictates that if council holds the line on taxes and other costs increase, then it needs to decrease services.
“That would be a totally different debate,” said Hillian, who feels the 2019-2023 financial plan is reasonable. “I think we want to show confidence in our staff and the services we provide to the community.”
Coun. Wendy Morin expects the formation of a select committee will be an ideal way to explore potential alternative funding sources that could save the city money.
Theos advocates the development of a high-tech park, or zone.
“I think that industry in our community is lacking in terms of the amount we have which affects our bottom line,” he said. “There is a lot of high tech happening throughout the community but it’s not organized, in my opinion… If we work on developing a park, I think that’s going to put us in a position where we can compete with other communities.”
Theos feels strongly about efficiencies and other revenue generators such as user fees and grant funding. Sponsorship programs and donation boxes for housing and other social issues are other possible means of raising funds without going directly to the tax base.