Editorial: when are Vancouver Island communities going to say no to increased taxes?

Local governments are finding it too easy to continually say “just a little more”

It’s important to keep in mind that it’s still really early in the game.

A lot of things will change between now and the fall when decisions will be made. But one thing will not change. The nearly six per cent tax increase for residents of the Municipality of North Cowichan will remain unacceptable.

Residents knew this was coming, so the number, 5.92 per cent, is not a complete shock. Council has been warned for years by staff that the price for a new RCMP detachment will be hitting the budget, and it will be a significant number. It amounts to 2.1 per cent of the possible increase. And this won’t be the last year the new detachment will mean an increase.

We’re picking on North Cowichan because of the sigificant jump residents faced on those bills that came due just under three weeks ago. But they aren’t alone. It’s a trend most communities on Vancouver Island have experienced.

Each needs to take a serious look at where it might claw back some cash, because the taxpayers’ pockets aren’t bottomless. Especially for those on fixed incomes, which amounts to a significant portion of North Cowichan’s demographic, there is no ability to absorb such a financial blow. Particularly not year after year after year. Even for working people, it’s doubtful most people’s salaries are going up anywhere close to enough to pay for such an increase.

It’s not the only increase in costs people are facing, either. Everything from groceries to insurance (talk to your broker about how much of an increase you can expect on your home insurance each year for the foreseeable future — it will blow your mind) have gone up in cost at a rate that salaries and pensions aren’t even close to keeping pace with.

This cannot continue unabated.

While Vancouver Island councils doen’t have the power to correct all of these problems, they can look to their own balance sheets and find some savings. Property taxes are a significant expense for most people, and while the services they provide are absolutely vital to our continued well-being, the ability to pay them can’t become prohibitive.

So it’s time for staff and councillors to look at where they can make cuts, and where they can find more revenue. It won’t be easy, but it must be done.

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