FOR the third year in a row, West Vancouver has chosen not to raise municipal tax bills by even one per cent, touting the move as prudent fiscal management. While this effort to keep increases below the rate of inflation is admirable, residents should be aware that such budgetary straitjacketing comes at a cost.
Even as the municipality continues to tighten its revenue stream, it is forced to allow salaries and other costs to climb. West Vancouver's CAO, for example, saw his pay rise by five per cent between 2010 and 2011. In March, councillors voted themselves an (overdue) 37 per cent raise. Meanwhile, the price of other necessary supplies from fuel to pipes to tools has been ticking upwards as well.
West Vancouver's departments are caught between these trends, forced to make significant sacrifices to meet the arbitrary zero-per-cent target set by council. That's going to have impacts - some of them detrimental.
In November 2011, the municipality inadvertently cut down a dozen old-growth trees near Eagle Lake, some of them as old as 700 years. This happened months after it phased out its community forester and while the role of environmental co-ordinator was vacant - possibly for financial reasons. One wonders if, in the absence of such cost-cutting measures, those trees would still be standing. Where else are corners being cut?
Allowing revenue at least to keep pace with population growth and inflation is not irresponsible management, nor is it onerous for ratepayers. The only downside is political, and that should not factor into the equation.