Opinion

Mayor Obvious floats obvious trial balloon

What's the math that adds up to political suicide?

The elected representatives of Prince Rupert are either floating a trial balloon or readying themselves for retirement in November.

As reported on the front page of the Northern View this week, Mayor Jack Mussallem shifted the blame for a possible $1.4 million tax hike onto the shoulders of the B.C. Assessment Authority.

"People will notice when they get their tax bill that it has changed, not because the city-adjusted mill rate but because the B.C. Assessment Authority either increased or decreased the value of their residence," Mussallem is quoted as saying.

Shaun Thomas, my next door neighbour on this opinion page, gives Mussallem the benefit of the doubt and calls it kindly, "disingenuous at best."

Frankly, I call it either a stupid comment by a city mayor or a comment made by a stupid city mayor.

Only Jack knows the actual answer.

Mayor Obvious states that people will notice when property owners open the envelope to the annual tax grab. Really? Ya think?

He continues that it's not the city to be blamed but rather it's because of the B.C. Assessment Authority — the provincial agency that routinely plows through a community and plucks a number out of the air for home values.

It's unfortunate that the folks at the B.C. Assessment Authority who do the assessments aren't actual homebuyers. For what they think is reasonable, there would have been a lot of homes immediately sold to them at their price.

Regardless, this practice goes on in every community.

Responsible councils set a budget and adjust their mill rate up or down in accordance with the new assessments to meet that budget.

It's just simple math.

The fact that a supposedly experienced mayor and council doesn't understand this simple municipal budgetary process is not only disheartening, it's almost too scary to contemplate.

For the sake of the already-hammered Prince Rupert taxpayer, we can only hope that Thomas is right, Mussallem and crew are just being disingenuous.

To my mind, I prefer to think that Mayor Mussallem and his council aren't stupid and that they fully understand the simple complexities of a mill rate. And that the shoulder-shrugging, deer-in-the-headlights looks around the council table are all simply the first act of a three-act play.

Act 1: Mayor and crew float a $1.4 million tax hike and blame someone else.

Act 2: Mayor and crew take up the cause of angry taxpayers and shoulder the burden by adjusting mill rate.

Act 3: Tell voters in November, look how great we are ... we held the line on taxes despite the assessments.

It's a silly, weak drama at best.

If not, and Mayor Jack and council are being truthful and can't figure out the math, there will be a lot of people doing the math for them in November.

The math is: $1.4 million more in taxes = political suicide.

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