Like everyone else in Sooke, the thought of a zero per cent increase in property taxes initially seemed like a great idea. But then I took a moment to research exactly what was needed to accomplish it. We all know prices are on the rise, what we paid for something last year isn’t what we’re paying for the same thing today or a year for now.
Given these facts it is easy to conclude that a zero per cent tax increase doesn’t mean that budgets stayed the same from 2011 to 2012; in fact, the increase in prices means that budgets were most likely slashed in order to maintain that zero per cent.
Take, for example, Sooke’s volunteer firefighters. These firefighters train to the same standards and certification as any paid firefighter anywhere in North America. The fact that they are volunteer already saves the municipality thousands, if not millions, of dollars a year. Yet their training budget, the one the community relies on teach them the lessons they need to know to save lives was cut by $8,000, from $29,000 to $21,000, or roughly 26 per cent
A little known fact about volunteer firefighters: The average volunteer firefighter in Canada retires after three years of service. The current mayor and council have been elected to three year terms, so can we expect our firefighters to be 26 per cent less trained by the time of the next election? Does this mean they will be 26 per cent less likely to put out a fire or rescue someone from a car accident?
The fire department wasn’t the only area to take a budget cut. The mayor and council cut their own training budget from $38,000 to $26,000. That’s right, the mayor and council, seven people, have a larger training budget than 35 volunteer firefighters.