The responses from those who participated will be published over the next three days. In total, nine candidates responded. Mile 0 City News has not received responses from candidates James Bridges, Linda Winfield, Duncan Malkinson, and Cory “Grizz” Longley as of yet, but their responses will be added if received before Friday. Mile 0 City News was unable to confirm email addresses for candidates Miles Mortensen and Charlie Parslow, but attempts will be made to follow up with them.
Candidates were asked to keep their responses to each question to a limit of 150 words, but their responses have not been edited in any way. The responses to the questions will be published in the order they were received. The first question, and the responses to it, is as follows:
1) Do you feel the current level of property taxes paid by residents and businesses is appropriate for the services the City of Dawson Creek provides? If so, why, and if not, what specific areas of spending would you cut to reduce tax rates?
Raymond Fromme: The level of property taxes for “residential” is just acceptable. Our “residential” rates are well in line with other Cities and the services provided by our City are just sufficient. The rates for “commercial” is on the high end of the scale, but the City has to have this income to keep up with the required infrastructures for our businesses. The tax rates should remain at the current level. The next council has to instruct the City to reduce spending and hence not raise the taxes for a for several years. Saving can be done within ALL City Departments and I would like to see a commitment from each City Department to cut their budget by 5%. I know this is do-able.
Trina Commandeur: Dawson Creek cannot be the front line worker but, we need more services for the dollar; work with the ‘me to we’ club that had their trip to Africa cancelled and encourage them to do a project for their peers right here in Dawson Creek. Give a life time lease to a city lot and build a youth drop in center together, or a new Daycare facility or even a drop in center for our people with disabilities/special needs in cooperation with the Me to We club, habitat for humanity and partner with college programs. Take care of your own hometown first. Mentoring & counseling services for youths at risk, affordable and accessible licensed childcare programs, initiative to develop a welcoming and socially inclusive community, initiative to improve the walk-ability, bike-ability and the public transportation of Dawson Creek. The city and school district could work together more efficiently and effectively.
Trevor Allaby: I do not think that the current level of property taxes paid by residents is appropriate. I would look at eliminating the expenses of council. I would work to cut back the per diem rate, the use of company vehicles, and the reduction of required travel. I would look into cutting costs with other city operating expenses. I would work to pay down the debt with the highest interest rates first. I woud stop financially supporting the rage hockey team.
Doug Ragan: Since our city administration has changed the frontage tax to an infrastructure fee it will no doubt raise the percentage cost to service our debt to about $0.40 for every tax dollar charged to our ratepayers. So keeping this in mind it is unrealistic to expect any tax relief in the foreseeable future.
Our new City Council must attempt to rein in some non-essential programs and expenditures so the current tax situation doesn’t become worse. They will have to scrutinize the City’s current assets and all proposed expenditures and carefully prioritize the necessities and hopefully improve our current tax situation.
Shaely Wilbur (Shaely): Taxes are high and this could be alliviated by using Fair Share for the purpose it was intended for. Our spending should be shifted so that we secure needs vs.wants.
David MacDonald: As it is unfortunately due to decisions already made by other councils, we have to keep the taxes at this rate to pay for the over budget projects and tenants or assets that are not able to support themselves. If we can look at making our city owned assets and tenants profitable with a good business plan, we could look at lowering the burden to homeowners and business. The Council and the city should be trying to work with homeowners who feel that their taxes are too high by helping them appeal to BC assessment. If we can educate people on the options available to them, I think that would help to lift some of the burden of the property taxes.
Cheryl Shuman: Each year as we move through the budgeting process we take the time to listen to the citizens and business owners of Dawson Creek. Citizens can submit comments via email, in writing and in person at the public consultations that have been held at KPAC. I believe it is important that we give the citizens this opportunity and feel we have done a good job of listening to their concerns each year. There is a balance that needs to happen between what the community wants and what it can afford to pay for those services. I consider my family home and property in the city to be in the average range and I paid $1610.00 before the home owners grant to the municipality for municipal services in 2011. I consider that to be very affordable for the service received. Depending on your assessment you may pay more or less.
Sue Kenny: The services that we enjoy today are reviewed every budget year. There may be an opinion that we would save taxes by not having the Multiplex from those who do not participate in any of the amenities offered at this facility. But the many taxpayers and their children who enjoy the multiplex will beg to differ not to mention the hotels and restaurants. The same goes for the new Arts & Culture Center which will be the new home for the Kiwanis Enterprise Center. Downtown businesses will enjoy the new traffic. There are people who do not use the airport, library or city buses which are all subsidized by the City each year; do we slash those amenities as well? We have to be fiscally responsible in order to keep our taxes at a comfortable level. I believe this present Council has and has been very transparent at all budget sessions.
Terry McFayden: The current level of taxation is appropriate given the services the residents have indicated the want to enjoy.
Mile 0 City would like to thank all of the candidates who participated for their time and consideration in answering these questions. Check back with Mile 0 City later this afternoon for the responses to the second question.