It’s budget time again in municipal government. I have the privilege of taking part in two budget processes, the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) and the District of Sechelt (DOS). DOS provides us with parks, trails, roads, storm sewer, sanitary sewer, wastewater treatment, garbage and recycling pick-up, RCMP, animal control, development planning, permitting, and community and cultural events. The SCRD provides District of Sechelt residents with: emergency preparedness, recreation facilities, solid waste (the landfill, drop off recycling facilities and green waste drop off), water, and transit. The DOS and some of the Electoral Areas contribute to the Sechelt Public Library.
Of your total property tax bill last year approximately 45 per cent went to the DOS and 20 per cent to the SCRD. On top of that you pay parcel taxes and user fees to the District of Sechelt for solid waste and sewer fees. The rest goes to a variety of provincial bodies.
According to a 2019 report, only 10 cents of every tax dollar paid goes to local government. And yet local government has the largest direct impact on your daily life. The work we do touches your lives every single day.
Over the years, Canada’s infrastructure responsibilities have shifted from the federal government to the local government. From 1955 to 2003, federal government investment in capital declined from 34 per cent to 13 per cent while the municipal share increased from 27 per cent to 48 per cent. We also have many social service responsibilities downloaded to us from other levels of government. To deal with this additional responsibility local government employees have increased by 30 per cent since 2001, while federal and provincial staffing has decreased.
Each year we examine our services and our one-time projects, figure out what it costs, and announce a property tax increase. Then citizens complain the increase is too high. Just in the past few weeks, I received complaints regarding road work, water runoff, playgrounds, and snow removal services. So, let’s talk about our services and municipal infrastructure.
To provide the services you request, we require the funding for them. Taxes are our largest source of revenue so if you want more or better services, we tax more. If our costs go up, we tax more. So, when you say, “the District should…,” I think you mean, “I should pay more for…” Think about the cost of what you want and what you might pay for it or what you are willing to give up to get it.
As we review the costs of our services, we want to hear from you. At our Committee of the Whole meetings, we are taking a closer look at every service we provide and what it costs. If you have a chance, watch the videos of these meetings on YouTube. We will have some information on our website soon too. Once councillors have learned more about our service costs, we can have conversations about the services you value the most. I hope you will watch for our ads and our social media posts to learn more about opportunities to ask questions and provide your opinions. You can submit budget questions to email@example.com or you can email council your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.