A Citizen Taxpayer Speaks – and is Rebuffed

Note from the Editor:

The following statement was made to Council on April 15 by Robert Fuller in response to the standing request for Delegations to speak on the subject of the 2013-2017 Financial Plan before its final adoption by May 15, 2013.  I considered it worth publishing and he has been kind enough to consent.

It should be noted that in response to Mr. Fuller’s final request for ideas and solutions Mayor Ruttan took umbrage, implied that he had no business asking for such and further that it was enough that Council sat while he talked to them.  It may be that this has exposed the real problem of Citizens vs Council: that while Council may pro forma be forced to listen, they do not feel obliged to hear.

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Robert  Fuller: April 15, 2013

Last year the citizens of Nanaimo undertook the creation of a Strategic Plan to guide our city into the future. Under the heading Operating Philosophy is a rather key notation which states “a commitment to strong fiscal management; performance accountability; sustainable, affordable municipal operations that provide effective stewardship of all municipal assets.

The financial plan 2013-2017 has been in councils hands for almost four months now and in my opinion I have seen little attempt to perform the old “let’s roll up our sleeves and see what we can do for our rate-payers”. When council can spend more time debating bottled water and taxpayer funded public washrooms than an important document such as the financial future of our city it is incomprehensible to myself. Some on council have gone so far as to insinuate that the city does not collect enough taxes, while others rely on a survey of but 300 people to justify that ratepayers are just peachy keen with the taxes that we do pay.

Well folks the appetite of the ratepayers of this city for continual increases of 3-4% every year has waned and indeed it is at the tipping point. It’s time to take of the blinders and rose colored glasses.

·         property tax increases of over 20% and user fees in the neighborhood of 18% are enclosed within the financial plan.

·         a city operating budget set to increase over 21 million dollars of which revenue from property taxes can barely keep up to.

·         tax dollars handed over to the NEDC, the Vancouver Island Convention Center and the Downtown Business Improvement Association with little in the way of checks, balances and accountability

·         10 year tax exemptions, land and other perks to a proposed hotel complex when other establishments have been built in the recent past and are paying taxes and not receiving a free ride.

·         a ten year tax business break to a bar in a train station when many organizations have to fight tooth and nail for every subsidy they apply for.

Is this sustainable, or is it going to grind to an abrupt halt with the citizens of Nanaimo having to choose which services they want, or worse, which services they may want to give up to sustain this runaway spending. Perhaps its time to start looking at cost efficiencies, even thinking outside the box to source new revenues and other meaningful ways to address the concerns of the folks whom live in Nanaimo while we still can. I certainly do not want Nanaimo to be caught with her pants down, so to speak, and have to implement service cuts. When that happens everyone loses.
Its crunch time now. In a month the financial plan is going up for adoption. I certainly do not want to hear the inevitable “it’s too late to trim what little fat is on the budget” again this year.
At this time I would like to ask each of you whom have been elected to represent our city and its citizens what possible ideas and maybe even solutions you may have to address the tax burden on your fellow citizens?

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