Ken MacLeod says there is a “gathering storm” among residents and businesses concerned about property tax increases in Courtenay.
Leading a citizen taxation delegation Tuesday at council, the retired teacher said tax rates are becoming unsustainable, forcing businesses to close and taxpayers to defer. He said council is over-spending, and called into question the financial management of the City.
“Our property taxes are on course to double,” said MacLeod, noting particular concern from single mothers, businesses and those on the poverty line.
Terri Pierreroy says her taxes have more than doubled, forcing her to defer for the first time. If this rate continues, she will have to sell her half duplex.
“I love the Comox Valley,” she said, fighting back tears. “I’ve been on a small disability pension. I have few options left.”
According to MacLeod, perception suggests a “passive dishonesty” where the City uses rising property prices to collect more taxes.
“Next year’s council, no matter who is elected, will be faced with several increased costs,” he said.
MacLeod questioned why council approved the hiring of 16 employees last year. (He had mistakenly said that CAO David Allen had approved 17 hires, 11 at the supervisory level, when in fact city council approved 16 hires and one employee re-classification, of which three were supervisory positions). MacLeod also feels council is granting too many requests from groups for funding support. Other than Mayor Larry Jangula and Coun. Manno Theos, he does not see council standing forward.
Coun. Erik Eriksson said there was a sound business case for hiring the employees.
Due to a number of heavy expenses, including water filtration at the district level, Coun. Bob Wells said the City needs to “beg and borrow” senior governments for grants to get the jobs done. He asked what tax percentage is acceptable if a 1.5 per cent hike is not.
“Why aren’t you calculating ahead?” MacLeod said, noting fuel and energy cost increases, and compounding pay increases for City staffers. “Good luck next year.”
David Frisch said council faces pressures such as higher standards imposed by senior governments and rising hydro costs, but has a responsibility to provide sewer and water services.
“What services should we cut?” Frisch said.
Doug Hillian said his taxes have also increased significantly, as has his house assessment.
“Can you take that to the bank?” MacLeod said. “It doesn’t mean anything. It’s all relative…I realize you have pressures, but what do you say to homeowners?”