Nicholas Hillier on Tax

Happy City: The Council recently raised its mil rate, which has spurred some public opposition. However, this increase will not be enough to cover the increased costs the City faces from inflation, and major infrastructure expenditures that we know are required in the near future. In addition, many residents want the City to provide more and better services.

The City has to balance its budget, and there is clearly a tradeoff between the priorities of maintaining affordable tax rates and maintaining and improving public services. What values will guide how you balance taxation and spending? If you would not raise taxes, what existing services would you be willing to reduce or eliminate to support your priorities?

Nicholas Hillier:

Residents of Ward 4 have been faced with tax increases for too many years. With an increase in the mil rate this year, residents are being asked to pay more at a time  when the cost of living is unreasonably high. The worst part about being asked to pay more is that we have already been told not to expect an increase in the quality of  services such as snow clearing and road maintenance. It would be easier to swallow a tax increase if the quality of our services was increasing rather than staying the same.

In recognizing that the city MUST balance our budget year in and year out, we need to consider balancing the books through a lens of improving day to day lives of the  people of Ward 4 and beyond, not just balancing the books for the sake of balancing them. Taking a person-first approach to taxation and spending is what I plan on  bringing to the table. 

I’m not promising that we won’t see cuts in some places, but my priority is finding efficiencies in what we are spending now. What is giving us a reasonable return on  our investment? Which investments in services are yielding the best results? What services are running well? What services are running deficits? 

We need to improve snow-clearing services. It is unacceptable to me that a significant number of Ward 4 residents are expected to shovel 6+ feet beyond their property  line, quite literally shovelling the street after each dump of snow. One thing I would like to reconsider is the Bike Master Plan. The paving of the Rennie’s River & the  Virginia River is something I think would not be a wise use of tax dollars, let alone a wise decision for the area. Residents have been crying out that they do NOT want this to happen. We need to listen to them rather than push through a project that had minimal public consultation and will cost us a significant amount of money with next to no improvement to day-to-day living in Ward 4.  

Evaluating our priorities through the lens of “what will improve the lives of our residents” is the key to balancing the books while ensuring that the public does not  face more tax increases. 

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