City council has decided not to scrap another question that would have been put to voters in the upcoming municipal election. At their meeting on Monday, councillors decided against asking Rupertites if they were in favour of increasing property taxes.
By cancelling the plebiscite on raising property taxes up to 4.5 per cent to completely reconstruct some of the roads over the next few years years, the councillors say that this doesn’t mean that the roads don’t need it.
The problem is that there is so much infrastructure work to be done in Prince Rupert. The city’s infrastructure was neglected for many years when the city hit the slump that it is only now trying to climb back out of. There is so much work to do that the next council will have to figure out what to address first.
“We’ve got $90-million worth of infrastructure deficit in our city. And as much as I would like to see road reconstruction – and I’m not saying that’s not where the next council will want to go – it was made clear to us that if you had to pick-and-choose, water when you turn on your tap might be a little more important to people than if a road has a pothole,” says councillor Anna Ashley.
During an infrastructure workshop, councillors where told that some serious attention needed to be paid to the city’s century-old water system, where water is carried into town through two submarine pipes from the Shawatlans Dam. If something should happen to them, the city would be without fresh water,
With so much work to do, the next city council will have to decide what to fix first and how much money they are able to spend on it. The current council believes that if they go ahead with the plebiscite, they could end up creating political pressure that would force the next one into doing roadwork when it might not be the best choice.
“Its up to the next council to determine those priorities. If we have a plebiscite pursuant to one specific thing like road reconstruction, we are tying the hands of the next council. That’s the biggest reason why,“ says councillor Ashley.
This is the second question for voters that has been cancelled in as many weeks, after the council decided to abandon a referendum on borrowing money to replacing one or both of the RCMP building and the firehall. The concern then was that there had not been enough educating voters so that they can make an informed decision. That concern resurfaced again.
“I’m of the opinion that you need the full picture in order to make an informed decision on whether roads should be the number one priority,” says Ashley.
There was also concern that people just won’t vote in favour of higher taxes if given the choice. The council has the power to raise taxes on its own and since the question would have been a plebiscite, not a referendum, the council would not be obligated to follow the result anyway. By not going ahead also gives the next council more time to look for alternative ways to pay for the projects such as grants or waiting for more taxable industries to come to the city.