It’s been said that the only difference between death and taxes is that death doesn’t get worse every time politicians meet.
While that glib assessment may evoke some chuckles at the local coffee shop, the truth is discussions about taxes, especially at a municipal level on Vancouver Island, should be far more nuanced.
No one likes taxes. But municipal budgets and their resultant tax rates are perhaps the most democratic of all the forms of taxation we are forced to endure.
By now, the various Comox Valley governances are into the home stretch on formulating their respective annual budgets. In all likelihood, the administrations have heard direct feedback from residents as they develop their spending plan.
Make no mistake about it, running a municipality/regional district is not an inexpensive enterprise and, for the most part, it’s the residents who directly benefit from a well-crafted financial plan.
Will additional staff members to help to reduce the time needed to turn around building permits and other civic services, provide a direct benefit to the community that outweighs their cost?
What other grants, capital purchases, services, and initiatives — that will contribute to the health of the community — can we afford?
Tough decisions must be made, and campaign promises are likely to be broken.
Lest we forget that, during the election campaign, all but one of the successful candidates for Courtenay council said they would be in favour of a tax freeze for Courtenay residents in 2019. Wendy Morin was the only council candidate to say no. (Mayor Bob Wells was also opposed to a tax freeze.)
But a politician saying what the public wants to hear during an election campaign is nothing new. And given that most public budget meetings generally draw less than a handful of participants, Shakespeare’s line that “the fault is not in our stars (or councillors)… but in ourselves” comes to mind.