Few people cheer the thought of paying more taxes.
So reaction to the recommendation by city hall that Chilliwack residents pay an additional 3.44 per cent this year will generate some predictable results.
But consider the math. For the average home owner, the increase works out to about $4 a month. For that, Chilliwack residents maintain existing services, improve policing, improve transit services, and add library services to the south end of town.
For some, the increase is still too high. Indeed, given the low rate of inflation and stalled economic recovery, they may even ask why any increase at all.
The problem is that a tax freeze equates to a service cut. Inflation may be low, but the cost of labour, services and material continue to climb.
These fixed costs limit options for city staff.
Certainly, there are municipalities that have frozen tax rates (coincidentally in an election year). However this usually only defers spending to another budget year.
Road maintenance is a good example. It is an easy thing reduce the number of road repairs done in a budget year. But those roads will still need fixing.
So what about the increased spending cited by the finance department?
Policing accounts for the biggest piece of Chilliwack’s budget pie – roughly 30 per cent. The planned increase for the coming year is relatively modest given that size; The city is asking for the addition of just one officer, and one support person.
The transit increase will expand service hours and provide better service to seniors.
Spending for new library will cover the expected annual operating cost of $1 million.
These priorities may draw criticism. But the point to remember is they were all asked for by the public. City hall is simply responding to that call.
As Chilliwack’s population grows, it will require additional police resources; if it hopes to have an effective public transit system, it must be user-friendly. And if Chilliwack hopes to encourage a literate and well-rounded citizenry, it must be prepared to provide the resources and the amenities.
This budget hopes to do that.
All for about an additional four bucks a month.