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LETTERS: Tax hike not only unpalatable, it is also unnecessary

Editor:

Re: Tough pill to swallow, March 18.

The editorial writer was quite correct in surmising the proposed White Rock tax hike is unpalatable to taxpayers. It is also unnecessary.

The tax increase of 4.8 per cent (not 4.28 per cent) is just too high.

Since Democracy Direct took over City Hall, they have inflicted on us a cumulative tax increase of 11.8 per cent – more than double the CPI for the same period.

There is no good reason for that other than just poor financial management.

Through their three years, they have been the beneficiaries of huge windfalls from building permit fees: $2.3M in 2019, $3M, in 2021, and $4M projected for 2021. A normal expectation for these fees might be $350,000 per year.

There have been corresponding large increases in property taxes from new construction of $322,000 in 2020, and a conservative forecast of $575,000 in 2021.

Finally, council received $3.8M from the province to deal with the extra costs of dealing with COVID through 2020 and 2021.

Despite all this, council still requires these excessive tax increases. How can that be?

The answer can only be fiscal mismanagement and inattention to fiduciary responsibilities.

Pay parking is really White Rock’s only industry. In a normal year, it would bring in $3.5M.

If that is reduced, the shortfall is made up by property taxes.

Notwithstanding the pier reconstruction work in 2019, council elected to give away much of it for free in 2020 and 2021. In 2020, the net revenue was down $742,000 and for 2021, a reduction of $964,000 is planned.

The beneficiaries of this largesse are residents of Surrey. The taxpayers of White Rock not only cover the deficit through their taxes, but don’t even get a reduction in their parking decal fees.

This council has decided to have twice as many committees as any previous council. There are so many, that the administrative budget has been increased to cover the cost of servicing them, and senior managers are burdened with extra time demands writing reports and attending meetings. To meet this demand an increase of $100,000 has been put in the Budget for extra staff.

In 2021, council approved the hiring of extra parks maintenance staff at a cost of $250,000 per year. Nice, but not necessary.

In November, 2019 council decided to “embark in a new direction” and fired the city manager. Evidently, the “new direction” was not quite ready to start as he was kept around to run things until March 31, 2020. Then COVID hit and they decided to ask him to stay on until May, 2020. In the end, the “not so new start” cost the taxpayers well over $300,000 in severance and recruitment costs. A totally frivolous and unnecessary expense – if he were so bad why keep him around for an extra six months?

It is against the law for a municipal government to have an operating deficit, and a council can get the boot from the province for doing so.

In 2020, this council committed the cardinal financial sin of balancing a projected operating deficit by dipping into capital reserves for $220,000.

Now for 2021, they must replace that $220,000 with taxation as a source of revenue plus increase taxation to replace that money in the reserves. It is most assuredly a fool’s game and a recipe for financial disaster.

Regardless, what we are being subjected to is not good governance and needs to be changed. This is our money the council is playing with. The taxpayers of White Rock deserve better.

Wayne Baldwin, White Rock

Editor’s note: Wayne Baldwin is a former mayor of the City of White Rock

City of White RockLetter to the Editor