EDITORIAL: Mixed money messages

If you’ve been wondering about some of the mixed messages coming out of city hall in recent months, you’re not alone.

Money is tight, we’re told. Costs are going up. Big infrastructure projects loom. Taxes have to increase, or services and programs will be cut.

Loud and clear: These are the realities of challenging financial times.

Yet, how do taxpayers reconcile this refrain with decisions which create quite a different perception?

With the exception of one councillor, Abbotsford’s elected representatives recently voted to increase the salaries of mayor and councillors by nine and seven per cent, respectively, along with extra health benefits.

Those are generous raises, in an economic climate where many people haven’t seen a pay hike for years, or if they have, it’s likely been around one or two per cent.

Equally perplexing was the revelation that a new water billing system will cost $20,000 to send out invoices bi-monthly, instead of once a year.

Annual additional cost: $100,000.

Add to this flow from the civic cash tap the recent approval of a new policy that will see up to one per cent of new public project costs dedicated to public art.

The first example of this initiative went up this week, in a traffic circle at the new McCallum Road overpass and interchange.

The soaring piece of metal native artwork comes at a public price tag of $64,000.

It will be one of several such investments in coming months and years, as the city proceeds with a new public library, fire hall and other major civic projects, with a lofty maximum of up to $300,000 for public art for each one.

Coun. Simon Gibson acknowledges that the timing and optics of this policy are “problematic.”

Yes, councillor, they most certainly are, and they’re not in isolation.