Tuesday, March 24, 2009

City Council Spends $750,000 From Reserves

Council Spends $750,000
Reducing Tax Hike By 1%

The Nanaimo City Council meeting of March 23/09 saw council vote to spend $750,000 from reserves in order to reduce this years tax increase by approximately 1%. These funds will be used for renovations of the RCMP cells.

While none of the city staff suggestions of how to cut taxes were actually dealt with the motion put forward by Councillor Holdom easily passed council with little debate.

It could be argued that this decision is not reducing taxes but rather is robbing Peter to pay Paul, as the reserve funds had been earmarked for a project which will require funding sooner or later.

More Bang For The Buck

During the course of City Manager J. Berry's presentation it was noted that funding which is available from the Federal government requires the city to match funding with senior government in order to use the Fed's funding.

It appears to me, that had Council opted to use these $750,000 of reserve funds for a project which qualifies for Federal funding, the taxpayer could have gotten twice the bang for the buck. If there are federal funds available for infrastructure projects the local taxpayer is going to have to pay for, it seems prudent to leverage reserve funding to gain federal matching of these funds. Effectively turning the $750,000 into $1,500,000 which seems a great return on investment.

There was little appetite to actually deal with staff suggested tax cuts with council instead opting to refer the matter back to staff for further suggestions.

The suggestion to no longer employ female guards to have charge of female prisoners, with a reported saving of $300,000, was the most vocally opposed with about 7 people speaking in favour of continuing the practice. This is an excellent example of how people with a special agenda can influence policy makers by participating in the process. Whether there is any real benefit from the practice was not demonstrated and it is notable that Nanaimo is the only jail facility in the province to employ gender specific guards.

Downtown Division

There is clearly a majority of downtown business owners who oppose having their tax dollars going to support what was described as the 'Secret Socitey' aka the DNPS. In a questionable voting policy the majority vote was not sufficient to avoid taxes being levied to support the DNPS. Among reasons for opposing the further funding of the DNPS was the lack of transparency and the perception the society is doing little for downtown property owners and are accountable to themselves only.

If you would like to see City Council put an end to the upward spiral your taxes are going to take you need to get involved and let them know your wishes. A few vocal citizens can indeed swing councils decisions, unless of course you oppose the funding of the DNPS.


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