Your Tax Dollar
Published December 3, 2010
I am often asked by residents what they get for their dollar and why taxes just keep going up.
Municipalities supply a balanced ‘basket’ of goods and services to their residents. These services include utility services (water, wastewater, solid waste); protective services (fire, ambulance, police); transportation services (roads, transit); recreation, parks and culture programs; planning services; and community social programs. It is the diversity and quality of these services that make Strathcona County the community of choice for those of us who live here.
Residents should expect Council and Administration to monitor its expenditures on an ongoing basis to achieve a balance between continuing to plan for the future, exercising fiscal prudence in uncertain economic times and delivering value for the municipal property tax dollar.
In 2010 your municipal tax dollar was distributed approximately as follows:
- Transportation (roads) = 32 cents
- Recreation, parks & culture = 23 cents
- Fire, ambulance, police & bylaw = 22 cents
- Public transit = 13 cents
- Planning services = 04 cents
- Agriculture = 03 cents
- Family & community services = 02 cents
- Economic development & tourism = 01 cents
The short answer to ‘why taxes continue to increase’ is that the cost of goods and inflation continues to increase. In addition, our community growth is about 2% and our own expectations drive the need for more and better services and programs. We want more community policing, more ice time, a bike park, artificial turf…. the list is endless. We all have a role to play in beating down any tax increases. I believe that as residents we need to think before we demand bigger, better, newer infrastructure. Let’s think before demanding more. I believe that Council can mitigate increasing taxes – with your help.
So – how do we minimize some of those costs?
Where Council needs to look for the greater savings, in my opinion, is in the list of capital projects that are requested year after year. This County has about 150 ‘open projects’ – some of which reach back 10 years. Over 220 million dollars allocated to these projects, some of which are multi year, are not expended. So – I have to ask the question: Why not have a catch up year? Why create new positions tied to new capital projects? Why not utilize existing resources to complete important projects that previous Councils promised our residents. These open projects include major arterial overlays, traffic signal improvements, traffic calming and intersection improvements… the list goes on and on… from road and building infrastructure to equipment replacement… I say: “it’s time to Get ’er done”.
So in this year’s budget talks what can you expect?
Administration is recommending a 4.86% tax increase, across the board utility increases and an increase of about 50 staff. Some of these positions are related to the requested 50 million dollars in capital requirements.
So again I ask – why take on more projects than you can handle? Let’s focus on cleaning up the projects of the past ten years… then turn our efforts and resources to future needs.
While I am pleased with our municipality’s move to cross department functional reviews, I still believe a corporate efficiency review will give us a more comprehensive picture of our current efficiency level and our potential capacity to improve in giving the taxpayer more for their tax dollar.
Also on my list of outcomes that I am driving toward is a thorough review of our customer service – both focus and culture (October 26 blog ). Our customer is our tax payer and you deserve the best service we can offer. /
In 2010 Administration is forecasting a potential year end operating surplus in the area of 10 million dollars. Once again this year I will propose that the year end surplus be allocated to fund a very few necessary one time only 2011 capital projects – in an attempt to decrease the 2010 tax rate.
I appreciate your comments. Please continue to send me your concerns.
Councillor, Ward 2
Last updated: Wednesday, December 01, 2010
Page ID: 6907