Mission’s 2015 budget gives taxpayers a pretty clear picture of how a Randy Hawes council works; actually, how Hawes works a council to get what he wants. Hawes’ previous record as mayor proved he’s even more intent on spending increases than raising taxes, leaving a big bill for future councils and taxpayers. By contrast, the last council was committed to fiscal responsibility and paid down the debt by 65 per cent; most of Mission’s remaining $6.9 million debt is from the Leisure Centre.
It’s hardly surprising that Hawes’ 2015 budget raises taxes at double the rate of inflation, with an even greater increase in spending. What wasn’t clear was whether the new council would rubber stamp Hawes’ priorities, or limit his spending.
Many reasonable questions should be considered.
Does Mission need more police, or might some of this budget be better spent addressing underlying social problems? Is this the right time to build new sports facilities, or should the Leisure Centre be paid off first?
And are these expenditures higher priority than a seniors’ centre, or downtown revitalization?
The supposed need for more police isn’t substantiated by RCMP statistics, as reported April 2014 by Inspector Richard Konarski. Even with Mission RCMP short-staffed by five members (10 per cent below the funded level), property crimes in Mission were down by about 12 per cent and violent crimes down one per cent.
The new sports facilities will predictably cost more. Removing the $521,800 transfer to debt retirement is irresponsible, and spending the $413,200 interest (saved by the previous council) are one-time cash-grabs that will mean higher future taxes.
The $504,000 for “council flexibility” is entirely unjustified, looks like a slush fund, and should be eliminated to bring spending closer to the CPI rate of inflation.
Tony Luck and Jeff Jewell