Michaels: Kelowna residents have every right to question tax hike

Kelowna residents have every right to ask that those who control the city’s purse strings be careful.

Kelowna residents have every right to ask that those who control the city’s purse strings be careful.

They should demand it. They should look at the annual budget process not as a yearly snooze fest for local politicians to pontificate on their favourite topics, but as the one moment of clarity in a year-long flood of grandiose statements and message-controlling press releases.

Press releases that make claims such as this one, which was delivered to inboxes across the city last week: “This year’s budget increase is necessary to meet previous years’ commitments and provide the resources or funding needed to keep up with our growing population, including our homeless population…”

Population growth likely does require service expansion. I’m onboard with that.

But this homeless bit of business seems a bit fishy, doesn’t it?

Dealing with homelessness through a new strategy will cost the city $125,000. Another $75,000 needed for said strategy will come from community contributions and grants.

Tell me, math-whizzes among us, how does $125,000 stack up against the city’s tax income of $127 million or overall budget of $350 million?

Does it deserve any significant credit for a 4.4 per cent tax hike?

Don’t get me wrong, I know very little about division. It’s why I pursued a degree where math wasn’t required.

I do, however, know a little bit about red herrings and it has all the telltale signs.

From the moment that press release was issued, all the tax-hating cranks in the city had every right to start the annual whingeing about city salaries and its ever-expanding roster of employees.

They had every right to start asking why municipal taxes are rising faster than the rate of inflation.

They can even demand that it not be the case.

Among their ranks may be “so-called experts” practicing “pseudo voodoo economics,” as the Kelowna city manager indicated.

More likely, they are just residents who also care about this city, but are strapped by costs in every part of life rising so much faster than, say, their incomes something that those of us who don’t make six figures a year have to think about regularly.

They’re not just “residents who are retired from Saskatchewan and living on fixed incomes in trailer parks” either.

Taxes, like death, may be inevitable but people have more control over the former and exercising the right to hold those in power to account should be welcomed in great cities, not derided.

 

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