Wednesday November 17, 2010

City Hall News

Janzen: City Headed In Wrong Direction

City Councillor opposes budget package

Submitted by Coun. Diane Janzen


iane Janzen, Chilliwack City Councillor opposed the Financial Plan Bylaw stating that “this takes the City in the wrong financial direction”. As presented she indicated concerns that the City would lose its enviable reputation for having low taxes, healthy reserves and little or no debt. She expressed concern over decimated reserves, rising debt, and increasing taxes.

Janzen expressed concern over rising City costs including the “negative impact of a multi-million dollar settlement and its ongoing liability and cost to taxpayers”. Janzen stated that she would not comment on in-camera discussions or decisions about Panorama but would comment on publicly available and publicly released information.

The Chilliwack Progress, Chilliwack Times and Vancouver Sun all ran stories in October of 2009 reporting that the City of Chilliwack would purchase 42 houses at a taxpayer cost of $18 million. New information available through BC Assessment reveals that these properties have now lost nearly 90% of their value following the purchase by the City of Chilliwack with the taxpayer bearing the loss.

A typical property assessed at $450,000 in 2009 is now valued at only $50,000, a drop of $400,000 in one year. In addition, the taxpayer is footing the bill for ongoing maintenance costs. Janzen stated that as a by-product of owning these homes, “Every time a faucet leaks a City truck heads up there and the taxpayer is on the hook.” Janzen went on to call for the need for greater transparency with the public on the Panorama situation.

Janzen went on to say that she is particularly concerned about taxes and the financial situation of the city She stated, “every time the City spends a dollar on Panorama, that’s a dollar that can’t spend on the RCMP, fire protection, road upgrading or public transit.” Commenting on City reserves Janzen stated, “We’ve always had a ‘pay as you go’ philosophy using reserves as a savings account for important projects like roads and bridges. The money has been spent and the cupboard is bare.”

Janzen also expressed significant concern over generally rising costs at the city and the climate in which these financial decisions are being made. “We are in a recession. We have one of the highest unemployment rates in communities of our size in B.C. Families are struggling to keep their homes and business bankruptcies have risen significantly in the last couple of years. We have a responsibility to make decisions that are in keeping with the times and demonstrate our accountability to the taxpayer.”

Council passed a motion to table the Financial Plan Bylaw. City Council will discuss the financial plan and budget in the coming weeks.

The Financial Plan sets out 10 years of City expenditures of over $1 Billion dollars over this period. Further it outlines Property Taxes of $586.7M. The bottom line is that this is a Financial Plan for the next decade with huge financial implications for taxpayers.

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