Monday, March 13, 2006

The Battle of the Spins

Something amazing has happened lately in good old bucolic Langley – it’s starting to wake up. Just like Spring, you know there’s something happening. Take a little old story like Township Council approving a 15% tax increase and just look at all the different variations on this theme.

The regional media (The Vancouver Province) is strongly questioning spending priorities in the Township and has been for the last few months. Veteran Councillor Kim Richter says spending is out of control. Rookie Councillor Jordan Bateman says it’s OK because it’s being spent on ‘public safety’ (and by the way he’s the one who moved the 4.95% increase in each of the next 3 years just like he’s the one who moved spending an additional million dollars on the $3-4-5 million dollar grandstand fiasco). Mayor Kurt Alberts says we’re in a “healthy financial position” at the same time that he’s saying we’re “facing huge financial challenges”. One local editor (The Times) says Township Council has listened to the taxpayers (so I guess we have to assume from this ‘pronouncement’ that a 15% increase is OK because it’s better than a 20% increase).

Where’s the reality here?What are we the poor taxpayers supposed to believe? Well, we at Langley Free Press suggest that you go back to basics. Look at the facts, follow the money, and then decide.

col-A = Year
col-B = % increase in General Levy Tax
col-C = Total Municipal portion of Taxes (bottom line)

col-A....col-B ....col-C2000....0.0%....$1,416...(note:Alberts first elected as Mayor)
2003...1.00%....$1,637...(note: LLT lose all seats)
2006...4.95%....$1,803...(note: 7 of 9 on Alberts list elected)

So, if you owned an “average” property in 2000 (the first year that our present Mayor was in place), you paid $1416 in municipal property taxes. This included the general levy and all the utilities (water, sewer, etc.). In 2008, if you still own the same “average property”, you will be paying $1,985 in municipal property taxes (including water, sewer, garbage and stormwater utilities).

Mathematically speaking, $1985 (2008 property taxes on the ‘average home’) minus $1416 (2000 property taxes on the ‘average home’) divide by $1416 (the 2000 property taxes on the average home or the base year) multiply by 100 (to get a percentage) = a 40.2% increase!

In other words, since the current mayor took office, your property taxes will have gone up by 40.2%. Feel better now?

What should be done now?

It’s time for all of us to get realistic and time for all of us to do the jobs for which we are paid. No more playing favourites.

Councillors should buckle down and ask the hard questions that have to be asked before they vote on tax increases. That’s what they were elected to do.

The local media have an obligation to the community at large to be honest and FAIR in their reporting. The community relies on their theoretically unbiased perspectives.

Finally and most importantly, the community has to stand up and speak out. The time for ‘numbness’ has passed. Our community is changing too fast and too drastically. We need to defend what is important and of value. (And, the “good ‘ole boys’ club” probably isn’t one of them).

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