Municipal politicians in the Valley continue to shirk their fiscal responsibilities by approving tax increases that far exceed any cost of living adjustment comparison – let alone Valley taxpayers’ ability to pay.
These increases are due to two similar factors: the insatiable political willingness to spend other folks’ money and managerial desires to grow their functions.
At a public budget review meeting the Cowichan Valley Regional District finance director was asked why the board did not set a maximum for tax increases in the upcoming year – to which he responded that with so many different functions to fund it would be impossible. When pressed, the CVRD chief administrative officer acknowledged that such would be possible – difficult, and complex, but possible.
Why not then? In my 15 years of municipal management, each year our councils asked management to prepare three draft budgets: zero increase, a small increase and a three per cent increase. Management would prepare those proposals and council would debate, modify and decide on an increase. Management then had to adjust individual budgets accordingly to accomplish the overall increase set by council. This approach required some serious work by management to effect without damage but it was accomplished.
In one instance, when a manager, correctly assuming his usual suggestion for cost reduction would be rejected, proposed partial closure of an immensely popular public facility, the CAO told him if that suggestion came forward again the manager would be fired. It did not come forward again.
If Cowichan Valley’s elected officers took the issue of spending tax money seriously and reined in unnecessary administrative growth, reasonable budgets could be set and funded by reasonable taxation.