The Canadian Federation of Independent Business claims municipal spending in B.C. has far outpaced population growth and inflation rates over the past decade.
However, the association of small- and medium-size businesses sees some light on the horizon when it considers data from 2009 to 2010.
Provincewide, the group claims municipal operating spending increased by 49 per cent — nearly four times the growth in population — during the decade, but by just one per cent from 2009 to 2010.
Comox and Courtenay are near the top of CFIB’s Municipal Spending Watch for Vancouver Island, but Cumberland ranks poorly in operating spending per capita from 2000 to 2010.
The report says spending in the Village increased by 76 per while population growth was 23 per cent during the decade.
“We spent money on our infrastructure that we haven’t done in the past,” Mayor Leslie Baird said. “You have to be careful when you look at these graphs and charts that you’re not taking it out of context. When you’re not spending anything on certain parts of the community, and when you start spending money, then it looks like it throws everything out of whack, essentially. The reality is you’re putting it where it’s needed.
“We’ve run such a tight ship over the years, and we haven’t had the money to spend, so we’ve been very careful, and we continue to be very careful on what we’re spending our money on.”
Baird notes ongoing work on a well and on the Dunsmuir Avenue waterline.
The CFIB states: “Small business owners have a particular interest in municipal spending as studies show that they bear a disproportionate share of the municipal tax burden.”
Baird said the Village is aware of the impact of business tax on small business owners.
“We keep that rate very low,” she said, noting compliments from the Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce. “It is low compared to Comox and Courtenay.
“You need to look at each municipality, and not combine them all,” Baird added. “We are all unique, and we all have different priorities.”
Among Island communities, the Spending Watch says Alert Bay had the largest increase in per-capita operating spending from 2009 to 2010 at 16 per cent. Last year’s worst regional performer, Sooke, decreased per capita spending by two per cent from 2009 to 2010.
However, its growth in operating spending per capita since 2000 remains third highest in B.C., having increased by 172 per cent. Victoria increased per capita operating spending by four per cent from 2009-2010.
To finance spending increases from 2000 to 2010, CFIB says municipal taxes increased 69 per cent, government transfers 273 per cent, and revenues from sales of services such as parking and licenses 135 per cent.
Had spending kept pace with population and inflation, the CFIB claims B.C. residents would have saved $4.26 billion, or $4,251 for a family of four, over the course of the decade.
CFIB’s Municipal Spending Watch is in its fifth year. This year’s report excludes the cost of policing, which is paid by municipalities.