Blessed are the taxpayers for will they receive abundant services.
If you own property in Revelstoke you should have received your municipal tax bill in the mail.
When you opened it did you feel blessed? Maybe you felt a little cursed.
Now some may think, “I don’t own property, I don’t pay municipal taxes.”
Think again. If you pay rent, you are paying the landlord’s taxes.
As a renter, you are also a beneficiary of the services those taxes fund.
We have been blessed with efficient municipal services in the past.
But now, with municipal taxes out-pacing inflation and cost of living, are these blessings eroding? How do we protect our municipal future?
First, consider the municipal services of which we are beneficiaries.
City hall officials can accurately point out that municipal taxpayers receive more services for less money than provincial or federal taxes.
They tell us that municipal taxes bless us with the abundant services of water, sewer, roads, parks and recreation, development services, and more.
The provincial list of services is much smaller. The federal government behemoth takes the most dollars from your wallet and returns the least in services.
The provincial government is particularly sneaky and makes some of their tax collection appear to be municipal taxes.
In B.C., the province forces municipal governments to collect taxes for education, hospitals and regional districts; all of which the municipality has limited or no control.
Moreover, over the past couple of decades, the provincial government has empowered local governments.
What that really means is they have forced local governments to provide more services. They have handed the responsibility of providing a number of services to local governments, such as secondary highways, bridges, some social services, environmental stewardship and more.
Bureaucrats and politicians are often heard complaining about this provincial downloading.
The federal and provincial governments have multiple ways to tax you. Income tax, GST, PST, gas tax, estate tax, liquor tax, capital gains tax, a carbon tax, the list goes on.
Municipal governments are virtually limited to one method: direct property taxation.
The provincial and federal government are draining your resources continuously. The municipality only does it once a year.
Yes, we as municipal taxpayers and residents have been blessed. But perhaps you are one of those people that check the amount of municipal taxes you have to pay compared to previous years.
Over the past three years, my municipal taxes and utilities increased an average of six per cent per year. Is the blessing of becoming a curse?
It is important that we not allow local governments to emulate the senior provincial and federal governments and become bureaucratic monsters.
If local governments do, we will no longer be able to afford the amenities that we have been blessed with and continue to enjoy.
We will need more and more subsidized government housing because our communities are no longer affordable to the average person.
And remember, even affordable housing is built with your tax dollars, usually inefficiently.
Council has an opportunity and responsibility to ensure municipal taxation continues to be a blessing and not become a curse.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Keep taxes in line with inflation and cost of living.
- Do not increase taxes in the future without a plan.
- When you get grants from other governments or agencies, remember that is not free money, it is the taxpayer’s money, use it wisely.
- Don’t make decisions in secret.
- Welcome public accountability and scrutiny. Listen to our concerns.
As citizens, we need to keep our politicians accountable throughout their term of office—not just at the polling booth. If we don’t, we run the risk of losing the blessings that have been provided in the past.
Drawing from over 25 years inside municipal bureaucracy, Tim Palmer explores non-traditional methods to help towns and cities perform better.