Letter: Council not listening to residents’ concerns

Property tax payers suffer the consequences of council's decisions

Re: Oak Bay News Dec. 30, 2015, “Weigh in on local issues but mind the facts.”

No doubt fact and perspective can be vastly different. However, it seems to me more often than not the community is providing the facts and council is often making decisions based on their own viewpoints, and inadequate research and information.

Two recent council decisions come to mind: the issue addressed in a Dec. 18, 2015 Oak Bay News letter, “Council transparency removed,” and adding a human resources manager to the administration at an ongoing salary of $150,000.

In the first example, the information provided to council to stop recording the names of councillors moving and seconding motions did not come close to the factual information provided by a resident in her letter.

The second example: adding a human resources manager at a salary of $150,000 per annum. The average wage in Canada for an HR manager is $47,675 to $90,589 and the accepted staff ratio for a permanent full time HR position is 1,000:1, Oak Bay has only 400 staff not 1,000. Canadian Business Magazine reports: “Salaries for HR managers range from $32,000 at smaller firms all the way up to $150,000 at big multinational corporations.”

Using the editorial’s comparison of Nanaimo’s orange to Oak Bay’s apple, according to the latest Financial Act information available, Oak Bay’s employee costs for the year was over $19,500,000 – while council collected the equivalent ($19,194,747) in property taxes. On the other hand, Nanaimo paid their employees for the same year $48,950,708 while collecting $95,182,879 in property taxes. Oak Bay is spending almost all property tax revenue on staffing while Nanaimo with “layers of bureaucracy” is spending 51per cent – these are facts.

Therefore with this in mind it should be apparent a full value-for-money budget audit should have been completed by now.

Instead, more permanent employee costs are being added while our property tax increases have been mounting substantially since 2012. No wonder a lot of residents have concerns about the additional 19 per cent tax increase indicated in the new 2016–2019 Financial Plan and because of where we seem to be headed.

It is not relevant whether the mayor or council adopted the provisional 2016, 4.86 per cent tax jump, what is relevant is it was adopted by a majority of council. It was noticeable there were no council discussions about the many looming local and CRD sewerage and transit costs and, the many substantial provincial government fees and charges that are increasing this year. Also my understanding is property tax deferments spiked in 2015 – another indication existing resident taxpayers are struggling to keep up.

What is most disturbing is the fact there has not been and, there is no indication, that any internal cost-cutting or efficiencies are being considered or planned. In fact the opposite is true. By hiring more expensive administration staff council has added to the ever-increasing municipal budget.

All the organization so far has concentrated on reducing administrative job responsibilities, hiring consultants, developing strategic plans without resident input and prioritizing expensive infill development objectives – while the property tax payer suffers the consequences.

Anthony Mears

Oak Bay