Candidates in the Sept. 30 Kamloops civic by-election are invited to make submissions to ArmchairMayor.ca on their platforms, biographical information, contact information or specific issues. Please keep them to 550 words or less. The following is from candidate for mayor Ken Christian:
Everyone is concerned about property tax rates. I commit to keeping them as low as possible. I don’t commit to a particular number and here is why.
Apart from being naïve and overly simplistic, committing to a particular number in the absence of data that drives that number is just bad public policy. Several British Columbia municipalities have tried that approach and it has worked for only a short time followed by a whopping tax increase. Zero Zero Ten.
It is destabilizing and it causes damage to infrastructure that often costs more to repair than if you had done routine maintenance all along. It is like saying you are going to spend zero on vehicle maintenance only to find that it eventually costs you a transmission.
The city budget is a complex document. There is the general budget, the airport budget, the Thompson Nicola Regional District budget (where Kamloops pays over 60 per cent of the general fund), there are the separate budgets for the three utilities: water, sewer and solid waste.
There are the reserves in the general fund and in the police reserve and prior year surplus needs to be factored in. There are grants for infrastructure, climate change action, affordable housing, transit, gaming, and gas tax.
Development cost charges can be applied to certain projects and user fees are always a moving target as we attempt to find the sweet spot between users and ratepayers. It requires careful study and a complete understanding of how one part effects another.
In my time on council I have worked closely with external auditors and have asked hard questions about the state of accounts and the integrity of our budgeting process. As your mayor, I will continue to look for savings and make difficult choices about what is in, and tougher choices about what is out of our annual budget.
What I won’t do is make promises in the absence of facts. My approach to municipal finance is to tax at a fair and predicable rate that funds essential core services. Additional staffing should be scrutinized against strong business cases that clearly show the benefits to the community. Contracts need to be negotiated by professional negotiators, not by politicians, and tendering needs to be open and transparent.
As your mayor I will support prudent financial management.