North Island Rising: Your city budget planning process already in full swing

Don’t wait until that tax notice arrives before starting the conversation

Next year, when you receive your property tax bill, you’ll probably hesitate, if only for a moment, before opening the envelope.

That hesitation is normal and allows for the question we all ask ourselves… How much are my taxes going up this year?

Many are not aware that the answer to that question is actually being decided now. Municipalities and regional districts begin the budget planning process nearly six months before those tax notices arrive.

Right now, politicians are working with staff to create draft departmental budgets. Wish lists for items and services beyond the basic necessities are prepared for review and consideration.

And election promises, be they about new facilities, new sidewalks, pothole repairs, improved services and so on, are considered and reconsidered.

The dilemma for the planners and councils is age-old and centres on the precarious relationship between taxpayer and tax collector. On the collection side, there is very little appetite for increasing taxes but a recognition that operational costs are not static and likely to increase. On the other side, the taxpayer wants existing services maintained, some services improved and new ones added.

It’s a Catch-22 where the need and solution are in constant conflict. The town wants to provide the services residents need and residents, who generally feel they are already paying enough, want those services without having their taxes increase.

To make matters more complicated, the decision on what to do rests in the hands of those who in most cases, want to be re-elected and therefore look to achieve the impossible task of making everyone happy. Unfortunately, they are up against the well acknowledged wisdom of John Lydgate who once explained: “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”

As a taxpayer, you do have an option or two, although not paying your taxes isn’t on that list of options. But you can have a conversation with your elected representatives about services and taxes. You can write a letter to the editor or post on forums you know your elected officials follow.

However, if you truly want your concerns or ideas heard, don’t start by yelling and than complaining. People will listen to reasoned arguments and maybe even act if you have an idea that might help.

Everyone can whine about what is wrong but it is those few individuals with sincere concerns and ideas about how things can be improved that make others sit up and take notice. And don’t wait until that tax notice arrives before starting the conversation.

It’s too late by then, so do it now.

Bill McQuarrie is a former publisher, photojournalist and entrepreneur. Semi-retired and now living in Port McNeill, you can follow him on Instagram #mcriderbc or reach him at bill@northislandrising.com

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