Do you hear that? There’s a hushed and deep murmur in every corner of Sooke, in bars, in cars, in restaurants, streets, followed by the occasional “hmmfft.”
Taxes, taxes, taxes. The hottest topic on the minds of all Sookies (and consequently, all of human kind) who’ve taken the 5.57 per cent increase in property taxes a little hard. Not surprising though, as the hike is needed so it can feed a $19.4- million budget, most of which is reserved for municipal operations – namely, infrastructure; roads, sidewalks, building maintenance and emergency services.
Now, before we pick up our rocks, Molotovs and large blunt objects, we must give credit where it’s due. Sooke council and district staff have managed to hold taxes near zero for the last five years, a feat that undoubtedly deserves applause and is by no means simple or easy, contrary to popular opinion.
Still, the Sooke playing field has changed. Rapid population growth, a housing boom (and housing crisis) as well as a shifting business climate presents new challenges for our elected officials, but challenges we no doubt expect them to overcome.
Look at Langford. More than a decade ago Langford was just a patch of grass with maybe two or three goats, a road and a lamp post. Today, it’s the fastest-blooming commercial sector in the entire South Island region, and it did it with next-to-zero tax increases – okay, maybe two per cent, max.
Comparing apples to bananas may seem silly, but there’s an inherent truth in that taxes need to be justified to the very public who’s paying them. We can’t do anything about this year’s budget, it’s done, and in fairness, things like improving protective services and giving them the people and equipment to work with is well worth the investment. That said, council can’t lose focus of the fact that taxpayers will eagerly expect things in return, such as better roads, more sidewalks, faster and more effective municipal services, and so on, even if it takes years.
The danger of raising taxes is that it can easily become infinite. Where do you stop? Is it worth it? Does the community benefit from it? Is it justifiable?
Taxpayers can’t answer these questions, but our elected officials can, so we expect them to be mindful when they consider raising taxes again. Otherwise, that murmur will only grow louder and louder.