RESIDENTS RALLY OVER PROPOSED TAX INCREASE
Monday, April 20, 2020
More than 60 residents showed up in front of the Village Office tonight in advance of the regular council meeting. Although the public was not permitted to attend the meeting due to Covid restrictions, people wanted to let council know they are not happy about the proposed 7% tax increase that was voted on and approved for first reading, at the last meeting.
Our community, its businesses and its residents, have already suffered severe hardship over the last year following the eight month strike at Western Forest Products, and now the current Covid crisis. And we all know this is not something that is going to be resolved soon. There will be no tourist season this summer and some of our businesses are already in danger of not reopening. Even so, staff saw fit to propose a 9% increase, which council turned down. They went on to approve an increase of 7%, more than three times the normal annual cost of living increase.
Keep in mind that the pool has already closed early this year, providing a savings of $73,700, and they will not be opening the info centre, another $20,000 savings. We’ve not seen any major infrastructure jobs in the works, in fact, most capital jobs previously proposed for the coming year have been put on hold, because of Covid, so where is all this money going?
Mayor Unger came out and addressed the crowd with a short prepared statement. He thanked people for coming saying “we see you, we hear you”. When he was asked what it was they “see and hear” we were told they were not taking any questions at this time and he went back inside. People were not happy and many stayed around chatting and comparing notes for some time, while adhering to social distancing rules.
The Village advised residents earlier this month that the public would no longer be able to attend meetings, but they had assured us that “During this event, we will be taking any measures available to the Village to ensure that the information is made available to the public in a timely manner.” This, however does not seem to be the case as minutes from the last meeting are still not available on the website, (the only way we could have know about this proposal and the vote) and if one of the village’s employees had not given everyone a heads up on facebook this weekend, most people would know nothing at all about this decision until it was a done deal and too late to address. We definitely would not have known in time to attend tonights meeting.
Apparently the village will be releasing information and some short videos over the next few days explaining the budget and all of its implications. I will do my best to continue to provide information to residents as it becomes available.
Submitted by Suzanne Trevis