In a time when individuals and businesses hard hit by Covid-19 are struggling to survive day by day and week to week, talk of White Rock council mulling an increase in municipal taxes must strike many as tone-deaf at best.
While the city is, no doubt, having its own struggles with finances, discussion of a 4.28 per cent tax hike – tacking on an extra $90 for an average residence and $200 for an average business – is unpalatable to taxpayers already living on the edge.
They can be forgiven for asking – as they did at last week during the city’s online finance and audit committee meeting – whether such steps can’t be deferred, or whether some capital projects can’t be delayed, or cancelled outright, until times improve.
Sadly, the answer they received from city chief administrative officer Guillermo Ferrero is that, even were the project wish list whittled down, the need for a tax increase would exist.
Council faces a tough decision when it finally votes on the 2021-2025 financial plan at the March 29 regular meeting.
As a small seaside town virtually unmatched by other communities in the Lower Mainland, White Rock has long been a destination for holidaymakers and casual visits and a desirable place to live. But this has also made it a focus of high expectations from both visitors and proud residents alike.
The problem is that the appealingly small physical proportions means a correspondingly limited tax base of property owners and businesses to pay for the town’s esthetic upkeep and all the infrastructure maintenance and upgrades necessary from year to year.
Factor in a global pandemic that has been just as devastating for White Rock businesses’ bottom line as for every other jurisdiction and it might not hurt to take another close look to be doubly sure that any projects being addressed this year, of all years, are firmly in the ‘needs’ column, rather than the ‘wants.’