Editor, The Times:
As a councillor, I get asked a lot, “Why can’t we just have this?” or, “Why can’t we just have it now and pay for it later?”
I hate to break it to you, but there is no free lunch. Everything we do is funded by taxes that you and your neighbours, and your fellow British Columbians and Canadians have paid at some point on something. In simple terms, even when you think you are eating for free, you or someone like you will pay, or has paid, the bill for it.
If you think we should be spending those taxes on something you believe we as a community need, then you’d better be prepared to convince not just half your neighbours, but almost all your neighbours to pay that bill with you. You’d also better be ready to take the heat from those who disagree with you. And you’d better be prepared to understand the complete costs of what you’re asking for.
Municipal governments cannot borrow money to pay their basic bills; they are required by law to balance their budgets every year.
There is no line of credit or big Visa card to carry this town over until better times. Local government can borrow in the long term for needed projects, like water and sewer and roads, but only for the construction of those things, not the ongoing maintenance.
If a town builds something new, it had better have the ability in its budget already to pay for that facility to operated and maintained. The only alternatives if there is no room in budget is to either cut something we already have, or to raise taxes.
And understand the implications of what you see as expendable before you ask us to cut something. Supposed luxuries like the Healthy Living programs or the ICBC office can be nearly self-supporting, boost businesses, or even make a profit, money that is used for things like the doctor recruitment fund.
So why can’t we get grants or other funding? Anyone who has relied on grants or tax dollars will tell you that the grants and funding sources are drying up. In the past, Clearwater has been very successful at this and, unfortunately, I think this has led some of our citizens to believe we have more money to spend than we actually do.
The flow of funds from the upper levels of government has been reduced to a trickle, if not shut off completely. Most governments and taxpayers now realize that we can no longer mortgage tomorrow to pay for today’s desires. Sure, you could have anything you want – pools, trails, better services – but at what price?
It will be you and your fellow taxpayers who will have to pay the bill, so you need to fully understand what you are asking for.
Council is currently going through the budgeting process, and I’ll be honest, there are some big challenges ahead for us – taking over the cost of maintaining our roads from MOTI being just one of them. I encourage you to come out and get informed and have your voice heard.