Editor, The News:
The Maple Ridge finance department has come out with its five-year financial plan for 2017-2021.
The first year of this plan is considered the 2017 budget. The other four years are anticipated spending and funding.
Paul Gill, head of the finance department, does an excellent job of reporting and explaining the financial position of the city.
But he can only account in the budget the information he is given.
So, fault cannot lay at his feet.
It lays on our mayor and chief administrative officer.
The financial plan is a disclosure statement.
It forewarns the citizens and businesses of Maple Ridge what to expect in the next few years.
On Jan. 17, our mayor and four councillors voted to adopt the 2017-2021 financial plan.
Coun. Gordy Robson was opposed.
The mayor has been touting her pet project, the master recreational plan. The financial plan has this pegged at $110 million.
Mr. Gill doesn’t pick figures out of the air. He incorporates figures he has been given.
Perhaps there should have been discussions around the incorrect and misleading figures given in this financial plan.
On Dec. 8, I received cost estimates from the city that the master recreational plan will be at least $199,000,000.
Yes, just shy of $200 million.
No one will convince me that this $199 million figure wasn’t available to either the mayor or the city CAO prior to council voting on Dec. 7.
Nor that either the mayor and CAO didn’t know the $199 million figure before council gave fourth and final reading to the financial plan on Jan. 17.
To compound the problem, the financial plan anticipates approximately $6 million per year in debt financing to be born each year through municipal taxation. Yet it states on another part of the municipal website the anticipated cost of $14 million per year.
The actual figure on $199 million will be well over $12 million per year. There will need to be a taxation added on to cover the estimated subsidized shortfall of $2 million in operating costs per year.
Hang onto your wallets, folks.
If your home is assessed at $540,000, you could be paying an extra $270 per year on the full $200 million. Plus, on average, a 3.15 per cent general tax increase each year. Plus this year’s 7.7 per cent water and sewer levy increase.
Homeowners or tenants, everyone will pay. Vulnerable people could become homeless or go hungry because of these inflated ideas that our community needs everything at once.
How could this mayor and CAO not only put this financial plan on the table, but ask council to vote on it?
Some would say it’s negligence or incompetence or deceit.
Funding this $199 million will not be going to the citizens for approval. They plan on doing a counter petition known as the alternative approval process. People will have 30 days to sign their opposition to this plan.
So, while you still can afford to buy a new pen, get ready because it will take at least 6,500 people to oppose this and force a referendum on the issue.
The referendum process gives the clear picture of what the appetite of the residents want.
Once again, they don’t want the full view of the citizens to be heard. This is why I call it the art of losing the public’s trust.
Editor’s note: The city finance department notes that the total possible cost has increased because the number of recreation projects has increased. The public will decide through the consultation process underway what projects it wants to support and costs will be phased as projects are built.