November 8, 2017
Today is Budget day when Council will deliberate on the values we hold as representatives of the District of Chetwynd. After all, the collective values held determine virtually every outcome. As elected representatives it is assumed that Council values reflect generally the values of the majority of residents, though the values of any one of us as an individual will not necessarily represent the collective perspective.
One value we hold to be uppermost is that Mayor and Council have a fiduciary relationship to the resources we oversee. That is, we are trustees of the public resources and do not have the liberty to manage them as if they were our own.
This is, and always must be, the guiding principle for every decision we make on the allocation of public resources. Hence, decisions do not come quickly. It takes time to understand the various points of view brought to the Council table. It takes more time to reduce these points of view to coherent statements of fiscal policy.
So now we come to the values we hold as individual members of the Mayor and Council collective. You will be able to see more clearly why time is important, mutual respect is essential, and occasional compromise the lubricant to keep the discussion moving toward solutions.
Value: Taxes should not be raised.
Counter value: A tax not raised is in fact a tax that is reduced.
A tax that is reduced over time may result in reduced services, layoff of staff, or at best, a tightening of the fiscal belt. (Not necessarily a bad move even when taxes are raised.) A Council that does not raise taxes for a number of years will leave to the next Council problems that will take years to correct. Yet none of us like taxes.
Value: Attractive streets.
Counter value: Money spent on flowers might be better directed to building sidewalks.
Value: Ongoing maintenance of equipment and facilities.
Counter value: Can’t think of a counter value. Who can argue against keeping up the value of community assets? To fail to maintain our collective assets would be akin to setting out pails to capture the rainwater from a leaky roof – or just letting it run.
Value: No debt. Period.
Counter value: Some debt is defensible and in some cases may demonstrate better fiscal management than a no-debt policy.
Consider the East Trunk Main as a project for which borrowing was authorized. Council could have instructed Management to postpone other important projects and save funds for a year or two or three and then build without debt. In the meantime the old main continues to deteriorate and residents are put at risk. Is that good management? Is that what the citizens really want?
Furthermore, the project now becomes a user-pay endeavour. During the twenty years of paying down the debt it is the users who pay.
On the other hand, reckless indebtedness to pay for golden statues is to be avoided. Period.
Value: Attractive recreational facilities suited to a variety of needs and interests.
Counter value: Go climb your own hill.
It is obvious that Chetwynd has embraced elements of both values and in doing so we have demonstrated another: we will always seek the good of our neighbors in the Regional District. Cooperation is a key to success. We are thankful for good neighbours!
Of course there are other values that will come up in Council deliberations but these few give you an idea of the complexity of the process that leads to decisions.
Oh, by the way, there are three things about which everyone must think: “Whence you came. Where you are going. To whom you must account” (B. Franklin, 1706-1790).
Merlin Nichols, Mayor