Letters to the Editor: Nov. 13

Taxes, of course, fire hall facts, and sundry election opinions and responses.

Taxes, tax rates

The letter writer (“About Cranbrook Taxes,” Nov 10) confuses taxes with tax rates.

The assessed value of your home is determined annually by the BC Assessment Authority. Your property tax notice includes this figure.

To calculate your municipal tax, the city multiplies your assessed property value by the municipal tax rate. The same goes for school taxes, hospital tax, etc.

Property values vary wildly from town to town, so tax rates alone do not reveal how much tax people pay. And you don’t pay a tax rate, you pay a tax, so ratepayers should compare their tax bill, not their tax rate.

Fortunately, just such a comparison of tax bills is available from the BC Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development on its “Local Government Statistics” page. Interested readers can download Schedule 704, “Taxes and Charges on a Representative House.” These ministry statistics place Cranbrook in the middle of the pack for residential municipal taxes for the nine municipalities cited by the letter writer, and ninth lowest of 24 municipalities in the 10,000 to 25,000 population range. The reason is simple. The representative house in Cranbrook, at $249,014, is the seventh cheapest house by assessed value of these 24 municipalities.

Darrell Bethune/Cranbrook

Fire Hall facts

The Cranbrook and District Arts Council (CDAC) has been working for several years with the City to redevelop the historic fire hall.  Some have said that the City intends to give $500,000 to the CDAC for this purpose. This is untrue and grossly misleading. The City has no intention of giving or lending development money to the CDAC. The City Council has put an item into their Five-year Plan to redevelop one of their buildings .They can’t leave it to deteriorate and it is not marketable, as is. Tearing it down to make a parking lot is 1950’s thinking. The cheapest and most practical option for the city is to spend some money making repairs and have the CDAC raise additional funds through federal grants to develop it as an art gallery. With this goal in mind the Council has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the CDAC.

The Arts Council has applied for and received a sizeable grant through the Columbia Basin Trust for an engineering study to establish if the building is sound and to identify needed repairs for use as a public space. The city was spared this expense. Further, the CDAC will apply for large federal and provincial heritage grants for this project. Both Nelson and Fernie have tapped these funds and so can Cranbrook.

Local firms will benefit through the influx of major grants for engineers, architects and builders in completing the project. Downtown businesses will benefit from added traffic coming in to an art gallery in the middle of town.

Cranbrook is a mature community. It is time to discard 1950’s thinking and to look forward to the economic benefits that arts, culture and heritage will bring to our city.

For more facts about the project call me at 426-3399.

Bill McColl/CDAC Building Committee Chairman.

Infrastructure, taxation

During Cranbrook’s municipal electoral campaign period, much has been said about the need for more spending on infrastructure, particularly roads. The most critical commentators have also been critical of city tax rates. This is evidence of the ability to hold two contradictory ideas simultaneously.

Limited taxation power combines with off-loading from other governments to put more demands on fewer municipal dollars. In January, 2013,the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) published a report showing that the federal government has off-loaded responsibilities to the provinces, which in turn off-loaded responsibility for infrastructure and for program delivery to municipalities – without providing the necessary funds.  Off-loading (or devolution) is a real problem for municipalities and First Nation communities.

In BC, the Columbia Institute found that “83.6 per cent of the locally elected leaders surveyed … said federal and provincial downloading of costs onto local governments is a major problem for their community”.  In the 1990s the federal government cut billions of dollars in transfer payments to provinces, which passed the problems on to municipalities with  devastating effect.

On Dec. 27, 2013, Calgary’s mayor Naheed Nenshi summed it up: “Legally, and constitutionally, cities have no framework … Right now, the legislation that governs the city of Calgary — which is larger than five provinces — is exactly the same as the legislation that governs a summer town of 100 people”.

And despite the interprovincial differences, municipalities across the country find themselves in the same leaky boat as Calgary.

Nenshi called for an honest discussion about taxes.  “Politicians need to stop being scared of that [tax] conversation and really open it up to people saying: ‘The services you need cost’  … we have to be realistic.”

It looks like some Cranbrook mayoral and council candidates, along with citizens, need to get realistic too.

Joyce Green/Cranbrook

Kimberley development plan

I wish to respond to the article in the Bulletin October 27, 2014 McRae responds to economic development plan.

After three years of the McRae leadership??.. How can we allow things to get worse? How can Mayor McRae make these statements with a straight face? I sit in disbelieve reading all the spin in this article. There are as many empty buildings in the Platzl today as there were in January 2012 and McRae calls that progress?

McRae states and I quote; “A strategy is a plan.” Well I disagree with that claim because a strategy is usually a measurable statement of fact, nothing more and nothing less. Back in 2012 most proactive Mayor’s would have guided his/her new Council on developing a strategy statement which may have stated; Build a sustainable Community that attracts $300 million of private investment and 300 more residents by 2018 to pay the $170,000 wage increase for union employees effective March 1, 2015 and all other increases in wages. City management or a committee would then be tasked with the responsibility to develop a plan including goals, objectives and tactics required to satisfy the strategy statement.

McRae states and I quote; “I believe that Economic Development is actually Community Development.” I again disagree with your belief because Economic Development and Community Development are two separate and distinct topics. Economic Development is the creation of family wage jobs and a net gain of money flow, called an economic base/ GDP, into the community. New money and jobs usually come from new industries, housing starts and small business. Community development on the other hand is a very broad subject and includes everything from improving the appeal of a neighbourhood, community accessibility and the list goes on and on. One thing I do know is the City cannot continue spending millions of dollars on their pet beautification projects without a substantial increase in economic activity and I’m not talking millions, I’m talking in the range of $2 billion over the next 10 to 15 years. Combining Economic Development and Community Development will accomplish nothing more than create confusion and the right hand will never know what the left hand is doing.

McRae states, “Perhaps it’s why many call this the silly season” and you know by golly I agree with that statement. Everything is a game of chicken. It’s all about who’s going to move first. And the person who moves first is always the person who knows he can’t win. In my opinion you made the first move Ronnie so keep up the good work of attacking McCormick’s economic plan and credibility because it only serves to demonstrate you have nothing better to offer.

Greg McCormick/Kimberley

Good place to be working

Another election and again we are told that our competitive advantage is lifestyle. Our value proposition should differentiate us from all the other four season destinations within a 4 hr drive. It’s time to stop drinking the “lifestyle kool-aid”.  Our future should not be based on “dirtbags” buying cheap houses (no new tax revenue there) and cheap lifestyle (compare the cost to ski or golf). The unofficial  brandline – “Kimberley, because it’s cheap”. Cheap housing and lifestyle make not for an economic development strategy.

What a nefarious sales job for folks moving to Town, sold on the dream of lifestyle only to spend sleepless nights lamenting how they will pay their bills in the absence of a job. What of our seniors on fixed incomes, is it fair to expect them to finance new infrastructure or the new Town excavators? What of the self- sustained amenity migrants who moved to Kimberley for retirement or just shift gears to get out of the rat race? Are we enabling new entrepreneurs or attracting investors?  Sadly no. Ask local businesses how much Council/Administration influenced their decision to start a business in Town or have supported that business to date. It takes more than issuing a business license to take credit for new investment.

As a former dirtbag and past president of the Chamber I have witnessed the frailty of our tourism based economy. Everyone knows someone who left work in Fort McMurray or the Elk Valley. Who could afford to ski or golf, have a pint, dine out, or shop locally when they can hardly afford to pay the bills. Local business and a dedicated few have tried to turn the economic tides of Kimberley, yet unemployment remains higher than the national average, taxes continue to increase, there are no incentive programs to attract new business, and local businesses are left to their own devices.

Nothing, absolutely nothing shreds the social fabric of a community more than economic hardship. How rewarding to hold a decent job, provide for your family and support your local economy.

Election rhetoric spewing the vestiges of lifestyle over jobs is dishonest and a recipe for collapse.

The solution: new businesses to build in Kimberley, employ a modest workforce at a decent wage. That’s an assessed value and that’s the revenue side of a municipality. It also triggers residential activity and discretionary spending. And yes, you can bank on these workers to enjoy the lifestyle too.

Schaun Goodeve/Kimberley

Response to Jensen

Ah, Alex. Norma Blissett hasn’t been elected a councillor yet as your Nov. 10 letter alleges, but I’m sure she would make a fine councillor and thanks for doing your best to promote her. As for me, a self-proclaimed independent running for re-election, I’ve never belonged to a political party which is why I call myself an “independent.” Mind you, I’ve volunteered for political parties, the last one being the Reform Party that gave birth to the federal conservatives, about as far from “tax and spend” as you can get. As for the slate bogeyman, the closest thing I’ve seen to a municipal slate in Cranbrook was the last election when four former Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce presidents ran and lost. This year, the chamber wisely decided to live up to its non-partisan mandate and declined to get directly involved in the election. I commend them for that which is more than I can say Alex for your attempts to sling mud in the current campaign.

Councillor Gerry Warner/Cranbrook

On group recommendations

During an election when you are a candidate for Mayor you are asked by many organizations to meet with them or to fill out surveys so that they can advise their members who that group thinks is the best person for the job. This includes business organizations, arts and culture groups, environmental groups and unions. That is standard practice.

As a candidate you do not know if, or how, those organizations will support you, and you certainly don’t know whom else that group might endorse. I have not seen CUPE’s endorsement information.

I appreciate all the support that is being directed my way based on what I want to accomplish for Cranbrook working together with you. I agree with Mr. Jensen when he advises against being told who to vote for, including groups like retired mayors trying to tell you who to vote for to regain influence at city hall. They should just come in and see me – it would be nice to visit with them!

Don’t you just love election time….!

Mayor Wayne Stetski/Cranbrook

Jumbo municipality

On November 15, the citizens of BC will elect representatives to make local decisions and spend taxes on their behalf. In all municipalities, that is, except for one: Jumbo Glacier Resort Municipality (JGRM), near Invermere.

JGRM and its appointed mayor and two counsellors cost taxpayers over $200,000 per year, but has no residents or infrastructure. Its single purpose is to enable a private development.

JGRM was created in 2012 after the BC government amended the Local Government Act to make it possible to incorporate resort municipalities in areas without people, since (unlike the BC Liberals) the majority of members of the East Kootenay Regional District did not support the project.

In one fell swoop local representative democracy was eliminated. Putting aside the wisdom of using taxpayers’ money to subsidize select private companies, destroying wilderness for the sake of low-paying jobs and recreation for the rich, building a ski resort in a region where many languish half-empty and glaciers are shrinking, what does it say about the value of local democracy when the B.C. government can simply create a new town when it disagrees with decisions made at the municipal level?  JGRM is an affront to our democratic traditions.

Paul Mick/Kelowna