As a community organization, the Abbotsford Ratepayers Association (ARA) not only supports responsible taxation, but we also monitor spending by all levels of Government. While the spending of our tax dollars in Abbotsford is ideal, this also must be done responsibly.
Over the last 6 weeks, Minister of Finance Mike De Jong has been on a virtual spending spree in Abbotsford. The ARA strongly objects to the timing of this spending. It is a conflict of interest for Mr. De Jong, who creates our Provincial budget, to make no account for this spending in that budget and then begin writing cheques, in his home town, right before an election.
Those expenditures have included:
- $175,000 Climate Action Grant
- $600,000 Justice Centre Grant
- $400,000 for Policing
- $50,000 to bring TOIFA stars to Abbotsford (part of a $12 million total)
- Awards Abbotsford the 2016 BC Summer Games – amount of cash to be determined
- $8.3 million for the Vye Road overpass (one-third of the total cost of the project)
Most troubling to the ARA is the last item on this list. In 2005, the total commitment required of the City of Abbotsford to build the Vye Road overpass was $600,000. The Province and Federal Government were to pay for the rest of the development. The City of Abbotsford does not have $8 million in its budget to pay for its one-third share of this construction project. This means that to fund it, Property Taxes will go up.
The ARA then views this “gift” as directly causing a tax increase for Abbotsford ratepayers.
The ARA has complained many times that gifts with strings attached, from any level of government, are causing incredible financial stress for all municipalities. In Abbotsford, we have been “surprised” with gifts to build the McCallum and Clearbrook overpasses and those projects emptied our DCC fund (Development Cost Charges). Now this gift will add to our deficit that can only be made up with increased taxes and fees.
If a project is good enough to fund, it should be fully funded. If not, then allow money to be put into escrow and combined with other grants so that true community priorities can be fully funded without increased taxation. This simple proposal would allow communities to stop depleting reserves or transferring money from other funds, both of which can only be replaced by increasing revenue. Translated simply…tax increases.
While the Vye Road Overpass Project was announced in conjunction with the Federal Government, it is local MLA and Finance Minister Mike De Jong that is spending all of this money in his home town, right before an election. We object to this obvious electioneering with our tax dollars. It is being spent without thought and the result is no real progress for Abbotsford, only an increase in the tax burden for its citizens.