As the city gears up to prepare its 2022 budget, Penticton residents need to decide what they want and make their choice heard by council.
There are many citizens who have already voiced their issues with the proposed tax hike. Asking residents to pay an additional 8.5 per cent, which equates to $185 more a year per household on average, is not a small request from the city.
It is not a move that has come out of nowhere. It’s an answer to the demands of the public, to address overworked officers, rising petty and property crimes.
Bringing in the additional police resources that have been called for by residents, the mayor and the RCMP themselves, in order to cut down on how our officers are being overwhelmed, is a compelling reason for such a tax hike.
Increasing the safety of the community is not going to come for free, and cutting costs elsewhere has been loudly denounced as an option by residents and councillors.
More police officers, bylaw officers and a new firefighter accounts for only half of the tax increase, with the rest due to inflation — which is outside of anyone’s control — and for slumping revenue due to the ongoing pandemic. The province or federal government could provide another shot of grant funding like they did in 2020 and 2021, but that would only be a temporary measure, and would come out of of the taxpayer’s pocket in the end anyway.
The bike lane’s detractors will be disappointed to know that even if the next phase of the project were to be cancelled tomorrow, there would be no reduction on the tax hike due to how the city is planning to pay for it through the electrical utility reserve.
The city could make cuts elsewhere to account for the increased inflation and lowered revenues, but that would only leave people upset as their programs and services take the hit. For example, cutting recreational programs might save the city a penny here or there, but would certainly raise the ire of every parent whose child plays sports or is taking swimming lessons, or the seniors who rely on city programs to stay active.
The people of this city have great sway when it comes to making decisions. If residents are loud enough, council will listen. So then they’ll need to decide what they are willing to pay for.
It is the same with housing. A constant litany against the sky-high prices and desert-dry scarcity of housing and rentals in the community can be heard in many online forums. Yet, when the time comes for more housing to be proposed, the neighbourhoods near the potential developments oppose the proposals.
Already, opposition to the city’s proposed tax increase is being heard. With housing, the vocal minorities have had great leverage in keeping their neighbourhoods the way they are, as the community as a whole suffers a lack of accommodation.
An oft-heard refrain, the NIMBY-ism from residents are those who want things to remain the way they are, but keeping the crime and safety of the community the way it is can no longer be the option the city takes.
If I was a councillor, choosing safety in exchange for higher taxes would be the decision I’d make. I do have my voice here, as do the residents who send letters to council and send in their feedback on the budget.
It is up to the city’s residents to decide what they want, and to let council know.
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