Friday, 31 October 2014

TAXES AND MORE TAXES


So what is the scoop on taxes? Are White Rock's the highest in the western world as rumoured? Do we pay more taxes than an equivalent house in Surrey?

Let's take a look at those questions.

According to a tax document put out by Surrey, White Rock's residential taxes are the 4th highest in Metro Vancouver. West Vancouver's are by far the highest, followed by North Van District, then Vancouver.   New West's and Port Moody's are just marginally lower than White Rock's.   Surrey's are the lowest in the Region, just about in a tie with Langley City.

In terms of Business taxes, White Rock's are the 7th highest. The highest by far are Vancouver's, followed by Coquitlam, West Van, New West, Burnaby, and North Van District. The lowest are Langley City's , followed by Surrey.

However, taxes are just one aspect of the whole picture. There are also other mitigating features. For example , there is the relative amount of Industrial and Commercial (IC) taxes paid.  IC properties pay way more taxes than Residential. So generally speaking, a City derives a considerable amount of taxation from these properties - to the point where the IC actually reduces the taxation on Residential property. After all, the businesses can write it off, right?

This is where the wheels begin to fall off for White Rock. In Metro Vancouver the average share of total property taxes paid by business and industry is 40.7%.  White Rock gets 11% from that source. Surrey gets 31.3 % from ICI.  Langley City gets 47%,and Vancouver gets 45.1%.  So you can see we are at a huge disadvantage in this respect.

When you begin to factor in some other things like : Langley City has a Casino(as do many other cities) which gives them something in the order of  $ 3 to $5 million per year: Maple Ridge does not pick up garbage and recycling: some do not have professional fire departments and rely on volunteers and/or a mix of volunteers and professionals. There are other factors, but you can see a straightforward comparison is not easy.

One way to look at it is in per capita spending - that is how much does the municipality spend per resident in total and on each function.  Answers to this can be obtained from a neutral source - the Fraser Institute.

According to their figures , in terms of Total Spending Per Capita, White Rock , at $1351, ranks 8th highest . The Metro average is $1384. So we are spending less per person than the average municipality - irrespective of how we got the money, be it residential or business property taxes, casinos or whatever. The highest by a longshot is West Van at $2118.  It is followed by New West at $1837, Vancouver at $1689, and Delta at $1596.  Surrey spends by far the least at $951. The next lowest to them is Maple Ridge at $1139.
 So why is Surrey so low? Well there are many reasons. One of them would be its relative newness. Surrey fundamentally is so new, its infrastructure is not yet in need of replacement. It is largely paid for by development. That won't be the case in 30 years , but right now it is great. The older or more mature municipalities are paying for it as they go or borrowing to do so. Of course, one of the oldest parts of Surrey is the old Ward 7 , also known as White Rock,  so when we broke away it does not appear any share of that money came this way.
Another factor is the level of service provided. Take Protective Services (Fire and Police) for example.  White Rocks annual per capita expenditure is $486, the 5th highest in the Region.
The average in Metro is $428.   The highest is West Van at $626, followed by Delta at $567, New West at $508, and Langley City at $496 (the casino comes back to bite you). The lowest is Pitt Meadows at $343 (No Fire Dept) followed by Surrey at $347 (Did someone say they were short on cops?)
So, hopefully that answers those questions. Bottom line is Surrey pays less taxes than we do , but then they are lower than everyone else and there are reasons for the difference.

Wayne
White Rock Matters

Monday, 27 October 2014

Five Terrible Reasons To Run For Municipal Office


Here is a link to a really good article on reasons not to run for office.  Ask yourself if any of these sound familiar.

The link is:
http://www.reddeeradvocate.com/opinion/Five_terrible_reasons_to_run_for_municipal_office_225195362.html#VEkj2_puQ8Q.facebook


White Rock Matters

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

City Business - Purchasing EPCOR Water Utility


It is my personal belief that the City of White Rock should purchase the water utility presently owned by the Edmonton Power Corporation (EPCOR)

Ever since its inception in the early 1900's the White Rock Water Utility has been privately owned.  As a private utility it is regulated by the Province's Comptroller of Water Rights.  The Comptroller assess the financial performance of the utility and provides some limited oversight on its operation..  The quality of the water the utility distributes is monitored by Fraser Health.

EPCOR purchased the utility about eight years ago, and proceeded to operate it much more professionally than it has ever been run in the past, and with an eye to making the necessary system improvements and upgrades.

Nonetheless, a few years ago there was a system-wide "boil water" order imposed by Fraser Health in response to a positive test for coliform in the water.   Subsequently, Fraser Health ordered EPCOR to take steps to chlorinate the water, which has never been chlorinated in the past. 

In compliance with the order, EPCOR undertook a complete study of the system and came up with what they called the Total Water Quality Management Plan (TWQMP).  This plan provided for not only chlorination, but also infrastructure upgrades such as replacement of the reservoirs, as well as arsenic and manganese removal.  The total cost of this program was estimated to be in the order of $12 million.

City staff were asked by myself to review the proposal to see  what the effect on the taxpayers would be.  Their findings are summarized as follows:
  • EPCOR currently borrows at a rate of between 5% and 7%.
  • The City can borrow at a rate of between 3 and 4%
  • EPCOR cannot get senior government grants for the work, but the City is eligible for these grants.
  • EPCOR currently sends about $250,000 annually (as profit) from White Rock to the City of Edmonton.  Once the TWQMP is complete they will be sending in excess of $1 million annually to Edmonton.
  • EPCOR is guaranteed a 10.5% rate of return on investment by the Province.  Since they borrow at a considerably lower rate, they are in the position that the more they borrow, the greater their return (profit). All principal and interest on the borrowed money is paid by the City residents and businesses.
In consideration of the foregoing, it is obviously in the best interests of the taxpayers that the City acquire the utility from EPCOR.

EPCOR is very competent operator and it is mostly likely that they would be retained to operate the system for a period of time until the City is able to fully assume its management.  It is also likely that the City would offer employment to the EPCOR employees once it does take on full management of the utility so that the service level to the taxpayers would be consistent.
  
City Staff are presently negotiating a final price with EPCOR and expect to have that negotiation concluded in the Spring of 2015.  Once the purchase is complete, all the distribution system, the wells, the treatment facilities, the land and the buildings of EPCOR would belong to the City.

As an aside, one of the candidates for Council is spreading a rumour that once the City buys EPCOR out, it will develop the EPCOR works yard at the corner of Oxford and Buena Vista as a high rise building site.  That has to be one of the most ridiculous suggestions I have ever heard.  I can assure you that there is no such plan and as long as I am in office, that is not even a topic for discussion.    



Monday, 13 October 2014

DISPELLING THE MYTHS (1 )

1.  Mayor handpicked the slate of candidates

I fundamentally believe in the democratic process and when asked to form or join a slate this year, I declined the invitation. It is incumbent upon the Mayor to be able to work with all members of Council.  Needless to say, some will be easier than others to work with, but as long as we stick to the issues, do not get personal, and are respectful of each other and our governance processes , it can work. 
 Did I hand pick the "pro-development" slate ?  In short, the answer is absolutely not - it was done without my involvement, or agreement.

2. Council voted itself a big fat raise. 

Early in 2013, Councillor Fathers asked for a review of Council indemnities. In response, Council asked the staff to look at the salaries of elected officials of several municipalities that were approximately the same size as White Rock . Initially, the staff  picked : Pitt Meadows, Langley City, Port Moody, Port Coquitlam, and North Vancouver City. This resulted in substantial increases for the Councillors, and a large increase for the Mayor.
 I asked that staff redo their numbers because the latter two municipalities (North Van & PoCo) were too large to be valid comparators and their inclusion created compensation numbers that were too high. 
The next question was, if the salaries were to be adjusted, when should that take place?  I argued successfully that no increase should take place during our term of office - we knew what the pay was going into it, and should not be seeking to feather our own nests while in office. Consequently, Council agreed to have the pay increase take effect after the 2014 election.
As an aside, I currently earn about $59,900, which is less than my administrative assistant makes. The last pay raise I got amounted to about  twelve cents on every bi-weekly pay cheque.

3.  I accept money from "greedy developers".

 I do accept money from some developers. 
 My personal policy is that I will NOT accept money from anyone who has a project that is currently before Council or has the potential to go for a rezoning or anything requiring Council approval.
 I accepted money from two developers last election because their projects were already approved by the previous Council (which I had no involvement in because I was not an elected official) and there was little if any likelihood of either of them coming back to Council again         ( Bosa Properties and the Avra Project).
 I did return one other donation from another owner who I believed to have a development proposal in line for Council approval (as it turned out he did not).

4. Council gets a ton of benefits as employees of the City.

Members of Council receive no pension, medical, dental,  or long term disability benefits at all. They do get a staff parking decal , and some Accidental Death and Dismemberment Insurance in case they get hurt or killed while performing their duties, ( for example, if they were driving to a meeting and had an accident) .
 Members of Council do not have expense accounts, although they can be reimbursed for expenses incurred while attending conferences or educational sessions. Spousal/ partner expenses incurred while attending functions are 100% paid by the individual member of Council. Mileage is paid at the prevailing staff rate if a member of council is attending to business outside of White Rock.

There continue to be many misconceptions about matters associated with being an elected member of Council. It is not an easy job, and is sometimes a thankless one, but it is a necessary one.
Regardless, it is incumbent upon all of us to acquaint themselves with the candidates and to exercise your vote for those who have shown they care enough to put their names forward.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Election 2014

ELECTION  2014  
The November 15, 2014 Civic Election is fast approaching.

I am contacting those who helped to get me elected last time and I am seeking your help once more. The office of Mayor is one that is coveted by many and it is truly an honour to be Mayor of the City of White Rock. 

This has been a very challenging term.  We started off with the unfortunate passing of Mary Wade Anderson.  This necessitated a by-election, and we were joined on Council by Bill Lawrence. Late in the term we had the very untimely and emotional passing of Councillor Larry Robinson that shook us all.  There was no by-election to replace Larry as there were only eight months left before the end of term.  We then operated short one member of council. 

Midway through the term came the announcement by EPCOR of its proposed Total Water Quality Plan. The net result of this program would be a huge rate increase for our water. Consequently, Council decided to investigate the purchase of this privately owned utility. We are working on that process now but negotiations will not be concluded before the election. 

Then came the advent of the coal trains,the increase in rail traffic, the awareness of the hazards of dangerous goods passing across our waterfront and, as a result of Lac Megantic, we saw the potential for a disaster in our community.
At virtually the same time came the untimely death of a pedestrian on the tracks, which created heightened concerns for pedestrian safety. The consequent , and in my opinion, unnecessary, over- reaction by Transport Canada created issues with fencing, crossing safety, and excessive whistling that we are still wrestling with, and again which will not be concluded before the election. 
Together, all these rail issues, along with the forecast near-future increase in rail traffic, made it necessary for me to bring to Council a resolution to seek to have the rails relocated from our waterfront.

Finally, we worked through a three week city worker strike in the spring . This set us back in the completion of our goals, but in the long term will save the taxpayer money.

So needless to say, it has been a fully packed three year term. 
What has been accomplished? To name a few, there have been a number of  Forums to engage the public on issues such as:  Acquiring Epcor, Waterfront Revitalization, Rail Safety and Dangerous Goods, and Public Art.
 I have worked to model a high respect for the processes of local government and the public. I have been open and accessible to the public, and on many occasions have gone to people's homes to discuss their personal concerns.
 I encouraged the initiation of : the acquisition of the EPCOR Water Utility; the relocation of the BNSFR rails from our waterfront; a renewed emphasis on the  Arts And Culture; the revival of the Spirit of the Sea Festival;  an emphasis on Special Events in the community such as  the RCMP Musical Ride, the Snowbirds Airshow,  the Moon Festival, The Upcoming Diwali Festival ,Semiahmoo Arts Party on the Pier, and the International Artist Day Festival.  
There has also been huge boost in public art such as the Richard Tetrault mural in Centennial Park, and the Elizabeth Hollick mural on the Coast Capital Theater.  There will soon be a bronze statue in front of the museum. 
I have made a point of working on increasing community pride by publicly recognizing the individual efforts of our citizens in many fields of endeavour including: the arts (performing and visual), athletics, business, and community work and volunteerism.


I want to thank all those who expressed support to me over the last three years. There were a number of times I have spoken to most of you. Your feedback was encouraging and our discussions were helpful and interesting.   
.
I feel I have kept my election promises to you, to provide:
 - positive leadership,
 - progressive, honest, and ethical governance, and
 - fully engage the public in our governance processes.

I ask for your continued support in the upcoming campaign.  I have unfinished business to conclude and need your help to be able to do so.

If you are able to help with door- knocking, help arrange condo or neighbourhood meetings, put my sign on your lawn, or  can donate funds to allow mail outs, newspaper ads etc., I would love to hear from you.
You may email me at wbaldwin46@gmail.com , phone me at (604) 535-0432 or, stop by the house and let me know in person. 

Thank you.

Sincerely,
Mayor Wayne Baldwin,
White Rock Matters.