I heard it again and again during council’s three day deliberations on this year’s municipal budget.These are tough times.
These are not glory days for Kitimat.
We can’t afford everything.
Oh, how true.
How tough are times?
So tough we could only put aside $2 million for future land purchases instead of $4 million (all of which came out of this year’s tax revenue).
So tough that we could only afford to buy a new ladder fire truck instead of a new aerial truck ($600,000 out of taxes for that one).
And so tough that we could not only keep the Kitimat Ice Rink open at a net cost of $75,000, we could also spend another $100,000 on equipment for the rink.
(The numbers above are equivalent to a 14.5 per cent tax increase.)
The reality was that whatever the protestations of poverty, council’s approach was spend, spend, spend.
Now they will no doubt deny that vehemently, so I’ll give you a couple of numbers to think about.
In 2009, with the pulp and paper mill still running and the closure not yet announced, council raised $18.47 million in taxes across all classes.
This year, with the dark times of the Eurocan closure upon us, they are raising more than $22 million.
And one reason they can raise so much this year is they have simply ignored the drop in assessed values averaging 20 per cent and jacked up the tax rate to ensure we paid the same this year as we did last on houses that are worth less.
And the tax take increase is on top of that.
I know I’ve made this point more than once before, but here I go again: what we are is a one industry, 8,500 population municipality spending like one that still has three industries and a 13,000 population.
Bottom line, this was not a tough times budget. This was a business as usual, Fat Cat City budget.
And is brought down in what just happens to be an election year.
As such, it is not a budget to take pride in.