Taxes, we all wish we they weren’t necessary, but they are. We have to maintain our infrastructure, roads, pipes, buildings, or they will fail. We have to invest in our community or we stand to lose our opportunity to build a diverse, sustainable economy.
We have driven tax increases down over the last 3 years from 3.85% to 3.05%. We have worked hard to get our house in order and my goal is to be in the 2 % range next year. In a comparison with 22 Island communities, our tax on a representative house was 8th lowest. That average house paid $1369.00 this year in General Municipal Taxes, a little over $114.00 per month, for roads and sidewalks, policing, fire protection, parks, trails, recreation facilities and programs, capital projects, bylaw enforcement, debt payments, Council and administration. That seems like a good deal to me. To put that in perspective, I know a couple paying $156 month for two cell phones.
In addition, homeowners also pay some or all of the following; school, CVRD, and other taxes (which are determined by another jurisdiction) and sewer and water charges, which are self-contained systems that recover the cost of operating.
We have healthy reserves for most major capital expenditures from Fire trucks to facility upgrades, and we use those to avoid large increases in any 1 year. We have attracted over 7.4 million in Grants over the last 3 years for infrastructure projects like the Chemainus River Bridge and diking. On new major facilities like the Cowichan Aquatic Centre, we have used debt to spread the cost of the facility over 20 years so that the users pay over that time. This is how the new Police Headquarters will be built so that current taxpayers do not face a large jump in a single year.
We have also adjusted our tax ratio for major industry to a competitive level, acting as a partner in the combined efforts of Pensioners, Unions, Management, Mill Communities and the Province to bring Catalyst out of Creditor Protection. The rate for business is one of the best around, as is the rate for farmers.
A service like garbage, recycling and kitchen waste pickup, at $103 /year, is enviably low, as are the costs of operating our 4 sewage treatment facilities. The Municipal Forestry Program is managed for a profit and contributes revenue. All in all, North Cowichan is a very well-run Municipality, delivering excellent services in an efficient , cost-effective manner.
I understand that the increase in residential tax has been difficult for people especially those who on fixed incomes, and truly regret any hardship caused. I can say that the worst is over and we will work hard to protect your interests. 0% increases are not the answer, they will result in a spiral downward with deteriorating roads and buildings, uninviting streetscapes, loss of pride in our community, loss of investment and businesses and loss of tax revenue. Candidates who are all about slashing taxes are riding a one-trick pony to a depressed economy and I urge you to reject their opportunistic appeal. I promise you a careful approach to responsible financial management and a progressive vision for the future.
I plan to talk about this at the Chemainus All Candidates Meeting, November 4.
Mayor Jon Lefebure