Burnaby council practising fiscal caution or fiscal piracy?

Re: Burnaby finances in good health (NewsLeader, July 18)

It is pretty funny that the NewsLeader did a two-page story on the health of Burnaby’s fiscal reserves.

I checked out the Fraser Institute’s “study” for myself. It presents Burnaby, along with 17 other municipalities, on a list of communities with positive net financial assets. The report does not even include a single sentence about our great city. This is old news. In fact, the fiscal reserves will have grown substantially after the city posted a $100-million surplus in 2013.

This is not an anomaly. Between 2009 and 2013, the city accumulated surpluses in excess of $482 million.

It is not difficult to build a surplus when a municipal government misleads its constituents by overestimating its annual needs and underestimating how much tax it will collect. According to BC Stats estimates, Burnaby’s population was 231,811. Its overall tax levy, which it controls, for city services was $213.5 million in 2013. Consequently, Burnaby had the highest per-person tax levy of the four municipalities in the “strongest financial positions” in the Fraser Institute’s simplistic study.

If you collect more taxes from residents and businesses than other municipalities, as Burnaby does, your net assets will grow faster than your neighbours’.

Is the Burnaby Citizens Association’s approach fiscal caution or fiscal piracy?

Finally, I am disappointed the NewsLeader would allow Coun. Paul McDonell and the Mayor to misrepresent the position of their critics without contacting the critics themselves.

No one is suggesting dipping into the reserves in place of paying taxes.

Clearly, with average annual surpluses of $96 million, the city could have minimized tax increases, maintained its reserve and still self-financed amenities like the Edmonds Community Centre.

The one who pays the piper calls the tune I suppose.

Rick McGowan


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