Column: From Here – Of rainbows and municipal finances

Rob Murphy is the sales manager of the Summerland Review.

As the snow falls gently outside and the snow plow runs up and down Victoria Road, I gaze out the window and imagine what the rainbow crosswalk in front of our office will look like in the spring. One problem. When last I gazed upon it, the rainbow was a faint, faded version of itself. After a winter of plowing, sand and salt, I don’t think it will be much to look at. Inclusion statements aside, it was hastily planned and executed. It was shoddy workmanship. The crosswalk by the library is not much better. If that is what $4000 gets you, I’m in the wrong business.

I hope it is not a metaphor for how 2016 will play out.

As our city officials get back to work, they will be planning our budget. Priorities will be set and decisions made. If the crosswalk decision and execution is any sign, we better brace ourselves. Infrastructure dominates most budget deliberations. Summerland will be no different. All over B.C., municipalities are struggling to balance their budgets. Many took the route of zero or near-zero property tax increases over the last few years of a tricky economy. Now it is time to catch up. No matter how the economy is performing, you can’t stop inflation. Across the board, everything will cost at least two per cent more than last year. So there are only two choices. Cut services or raise taxes. Some cities are being very upfront about potential property tax increases, some less so.

So far, I haven’t heard much from our mayor and council regarding Summerland’s budget position. I have to assume that finding new sources of revenue will be a priority. I also think there will be a lot of discussion regarding infrastructure.

One area of concern is our electrical grid. I can’t help but notice that we still have the temporary transformer hooked up.

That’s not a good sign. I wonder how much that will cost. Another concern is the fire department. It’s almost time to buy a new truck. With the kinds of businesses in our industrial area, a fire truck capable of handling industrial fires should be a priority. The list goes on from there…

Lots to discuss.

As always, there will be lots of debate in the coffee shops about who should pay for what. As a fiscal conservative, I am never in favour of raising taxes unless there is good reason. In the case of Summerland, I believe there is. Given that this isn’t an election budget, I hope our mayor and council can be brave in the face of opposition and do what is right for Summerland. Invest in preventative maintenance of our key infrastructure, invest in public safety and invest in the future. If that means residential taxes go up, so be it.

Learn from the rainbow crosswalk and do this budget right from day one. No hasty decisions, no poor execution. I would encourage you all to get involved where you can in the process. Attend a council meeting, educate yourselves.

It is your money that is being discussed, after all.

Rob Murphy is the sales manager of the Summerland Review.