An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
THE .93 PERCENT TAX INCREASE in this year’s City of Kamloops budget is being hailed as the lowest in at least 10 years. That’s actually an under-statement — it’s the lowest in about 20.
City council tentatively set the increase at a meeting yesterday as it found temptation too much to handle, approving 13 of the extra 15 items put in front of it.
Last fall, struggling with what to do about the COVID-19 pandemic, the council directed staff to come back with a 2021 budget increase as close to zero as possible. Staff dutifully returned with .25 per cent.
Council took it from there. It would seem last fall’s urgency on the COVID file — which prompted the zero-increase scenario — has somewhat dissipated with time.
I wrote last year that the council would have a great deal of trouble achieving its objective, which turned out to be absolutely right.
But is council’s decision really so bad? Was it really such a betrayal of its original determination on the budget issue?
The percentage increase amounts to just under $21 for the average $469,000 home, which would have bought a couple of lattes and a croissant. While it would have been nice to hang onto that $21, it won’t break the bank and council knows it.
There’s another bright side in this year’s budget. For many years, City councils regarded a two per cent budget increase as the perfect world. It never sounded like much, especially if compounding was ignored.
There were undoubtedly times when the increase should have been higher but there were also times when it could have been lower. Council’s decision yesterday broke the glass floor of budgeting, proving it’s possible to tighten the belt when the motivation is there, even though it could have gone lower still.
Artificial targets of the past are gone. And that, folks, is the glass-half-full assessment of this year’s budget increase.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.