EDITORIAL: Port Alberni tax debate will be painful

Tough choices are ahead for municipal politicians

When Port Alberni City Council announced that next year’s taxes could be at least 10 percent to help make up for the cuts hastily compiled in order to make budget in the early weeks of the pandemic, the public hue and cry was loud. With the economy at a standstill and thousands of people out of work—some temporarily, some permanently—no one wanted to hear that their taxes might be going up in the double digits next year.

Lost in the noise was the fact the city did a 180-degree turn in cutting $800,000 from its budget to keep the 2020 increase to 1.1 percent, and doing it in a very short period of time. There was no way they would have been able to keep it to zero this year, and they were unable to offer a tax deferral—that kind of decision is not within the city’s purview.

The hard reality is recovery is going to be painful for everybody: difficult decisions are going to have to be made, and the city will have to look internally as well as externally for efficiencies.

If the public doesn’t want to pay higher municipal taxes, they will have to put up with cuts to service from the city. What that will mean is difficult to see right now. Municipalities are not able to run deficits; their annual budgets must balance.

There was opposition to different proposals the city brought up for debate during this year’s budget process, but few people spoke up as to what they feel is important for the city.

Economic recovery is a given, but also a huge unknown as we are not through the coronavirus pandemic yet. Everything from industry to tourism is up in the air, and no one knows what they will look like when they land.

Maintaining infrastructure always seems to be pushed aside because it is so expensive. However, the city’s infrastructure, such as roads and sewers, is vital.

Instead of decrying what we don’t want, it’s time to tell city council what we do want going forward. We must do this creatively, with a mind to long-term resilience—not short-term repair.

Council now has a year to consider the budget for 2021, and the public has the same amount of time to let them know what is important to them. This will also be a time for the present city council to truly put their mark on their term in office.

— Alberni Valley News

CoronavirusMunicipal GovernmentPort Alberni

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