If the taxpayers of Prince George ever had a golden opportunity to have a say in how they are being taxed, and how their tax dollars are being spent, the time is now.
Prince George taxpayers have been attempting to get city hall's attention to quit raising taxes and to reduce costs.This has been going on for a number of years and, for the most part, these requests and suggestions have been ignored.
We are now at a point where it is not a question of whether or not we will get a tax increase but just the question of how much the increase will be.
We are now faced with a situation where the city wishes to borrow $32 million for various capital projects over a 20-year period.We have not received any information from the city as why it is necessary to borrow this money.One would think that mundane projects like putting a roof on a building, putting culverts under a creek or upgrading some streets and parks would fall under normal maintenance and be done with funding from our annual taxes and maintenance funds.So why the borrowing?
Interest on borrowing $32 million over 20 years would be in the area of $18 million, which would generate a tax increase of $56.82 per year and when added to the tax increases from the borrowing for the new swimming pool ($35 million) and new fire hall ($15 million) in 2017, we will have a tax increase of approx $141 per year for the next 20 years, because of borrowing costs.
We all know (or should know) that when it comes to raising taxes we the taxpayer have lost control, we have lost the ability to put pressure on council and city administration and we are basically ignored.It seems what we want, think or feel about this subject is meaningless.The city administration will make the decisions as to what is good for us.
So, what do we do?Well as it turns out, because the city proposes to borrow this $32 million over a 20-year period, they need to get the approval of the eligiblevoters of the city.They can do this by going to a referendum and getting 50 per cent plus one of those eligible voters who voted, or they can go to the Alternate Approval Process.
In this case, the city chose to go to the AAP and now unless we can get 10 per cent of eligible voters to sign the AAP (5,546 signatures) the city has the OK to borrow the funds.If the citizens of Prince George sign 5,546 or more AAP forms, the city then must either not go forward with the borrowing plan or go to a referendum to get the 50 per cent plus one majority they would need.
So there is the golden opportunity.We need each and every eligible voter in Prince George to ensure that they get involved in this process. In order to sign the AAP as a resident elector, a person must be a Canadian citizen, be at least 18 years of age, have lived in B.C. for at least the last six months and have lived with the city of Prince George for at least the last 30 days.Please note you do not have to own property in the city to be able to vote. Anyone that meets the above criteria can sign the petition, whether they be homeowners, renters, etc.
By getting the requisite number of signatures, we can force the city to drop the borrowing idea or go to a referendum.We can also put the responsibility for borrowing money back in the hands of those who have the ultimate say on borrowing, i.e. the taxpayers of Prince George.
The first and immediate benefit of stopping the city from borrowing $32 million is a savings to taxpayers of approximately $18 million in interest over the next 20 years.The second immediate benefit would be to force the city to use due diligence when spending tax dollars and find more productive and creative ways to get these jobs done, through other revenue sources.
I would suggest that every family and citizen of Prince George that opposes this borrowing plan obtain the AAP forms from city hall and arrange to have those in their family who are eligible sign the petition.They can also get copies of the form or sign the form at the Farmers Market in downtown Prince George, on Saturday May 18 and May 25.
Myself and others have plenty of forms available for signing and would be happy to deliver these forms to your place of residence to ensure that you get a chance to sign.My phone number is 250-961-1192 if you need forms.
The deadline for getting these AAPs to city hall is May 30, so even though this looks like a long time it isn't.
People who are in favour of the city borrowing this money and increasing taxes do not have to do anything other than sit back and see how this process unfolds.
-- Eric Allen, Prince George