West Vancouver's $36-million public safety building can be built without raising property taxes by a single cent, but doing so is akin to blowing your children's inheritance, according to one councillor.
District staff 's plan involves using land sales to repay a $36-million loan in order to avoid a bump in property taxes. That scenario would include "locking down" the endowment fund for 30 years until the loan is repaid.
At last week's council meeting, Coun. Craig Cameron called the solution "clearly inferior to any of the alternatives," referred to the plan as "inter-generational inequity."
"To me, it's like spending your birthright," he said.
In selling land to fund a building, Cameron argued the district would be swapping an appreciating asset for a depreciating one.
The district should consider funding the public safety building with some of the funds from the sale of the 1300-block of Marine Drive - which is slated to be sold to Grosvenor development group - with the rest coming from property taxes.
"We're assuring that people who are getting the benefit of the facility are paying for the facility," Cameron said. "There's no argument against that."
The argument against that came from Coun. Bill Soprovich, who likened Cameron's comments to fear mongering.
"I don't want to see the public charged for this building, period," Soprovich said.
The district has a long history of using a pay-as-you-go method, Soprovich said.
"We've upgraded everything in this community, as far as our structures. We have specifically paid as we went. Why should the day's taxpayer be fraught with a loan, or a taxation? Saying that we're robbing our children's future? The endowment fund will grow."
Coun. Trish Panz agreed with Soprovich.
"I just simply can't support a tax increase for this," she said.
While a tax increase is a bad idea, a long-term loan is no better, according to Panz.
"I don't want to be tying the hands of future councils for 30 years," she said.
Staff's recommendations came as a surprise to Mayor Michael Smith, who said the plan has always been to use the funds from the sale of the 1300-block of Marine Drive to fund the public safety building.
"I don't understand why we're deviating from what I thought was a very sensible process," he said. "The thought of borrowing $36 million, in my opinion, is sheer lunacy. If you want to know whether it's better to be a lender or a borrower, look at the bank profits."
Linking the sale of the 1300-block with the public safety building is not the right strategy, according to Coun. Nora Gambioli.
"I feel that putting us in that position is a really serious conflict," she said. "I don't want them to be related, it's never been related in my mind."
Coun. Mary-Ann Booth recused herself from most of the discussion due to her conflict of interest related to the 1300-block of Marine Drive.
Staff must return to council for final approval of the financial plan before construction can start on the public safety building. Shovels are scheduled to dig into the ground in early 2014.
Coun. Michael Lewis did not attend the meeting.
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