Council must keep its word

To the Editor,

To the Editor,

My husband and I attended the public meeting on the proposed budget on Jan. 18.

Council appeared surprised by the low attendance numbers compared to last year.

During this meeting, it was brought to the attention of council that in the past, citizens have given input on several issues and have been ignored. The perception is that the meetings are a waste of time as council has already made up their minds and the budget is a ‘done deal’.

Moderator Russell Dyson asked all members of council for their commitment to listen and consider the public’s input into the budget’s decision making.

Mayor and council agreed to do so. They stated that the 2011 budget is still a draft, can be changed and is not a ‘done deal’. Let’s hope that council means what it said publicly.

The information sheet obtained at the meeting states that with Catalyst paying their outstanding taxes, the City of Port Alberni has a budget surplus of approximately $1.4 million. The surplus will be retained to help fund future service cost increases and defray future residential tax increases.

Perhaps these funds could be utilized to maintain and/or increase our core services now rather than in the future.

I urge all citizens of Port Alberni to take the time to write, e-mail and attend future meetings. Give your opinions, suggestions and concerns to council prior to the Feb. 9 deadline.

Let’s take charge of our future so we can make Port Alberni a better place to live.

Monique Begg,

Port Alberni

Residents deserve rebate

To the Editor,

Without even a pang of conscience and no sense of social responsibility to the residential taxpayer, city council has foisted an increase of over 33 per cent for the years 2010 to 2012 inclusive, despite a zero per cent increase for 2011. The average residential tax increase is over 11 per cent per annum.

However, there is a $200 increase in the homeowner’s grant, and, if your assessment has gone down, you may not see the full impact of the huge tax increase.

Moreover, there is a high degree of intellectual dishonesty when the city compares taxes and salary rates with other B.C. municipalities who are also living unrestricted and high on the hog. Comparisons should be made with the private sector, especially in the wages/ benefits area.

The main purpose of the 23 per cent tax increase for 2010 was to make up the revenue shortfall when Catalyst Paper paid just $1.5 million in industrial taxes in 2009. Subsequently, the company paid its full taxes for 2009, plus a penalty.

Every residential taxpayer in this city should be demanding a rebate for the tax gouging that occurred last year. Residential taxes are now pulling in over $10 million as compared to about $5 million for industrial taxes and $3 million from businesses. I’ve suggested that at least $1 to 1.5 million should be rebated to residential taxpayers this year in the form of a tax decrease.

There are obvious tax savings to be had by reducing the subsidy for the McLean Mill and steam-train empire, and freezing all wages for three years, with the exception of firefighters. Whether that group deserves parity with Vancouver firefighters is indeed a topic for debate.

I have to say that the general tax-paying public is a disgrace. About 300 people attended the budget meeting at the Capitol last year, and only 22 people this year—the very time we could have put pressure on city council with very good reasons for tax reductions.

Richard Berg,

Port Alberni

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