EDITORIAL: Testing taxpayers’ patience

Politicians voting to increase their salaries and benefits – paid by the public which has little to no input in the process – is always a debatable, if not unpalatable prospect.

It is made much more so when budgets are tight and taxes are high.

And it’s the latter in which Abbotsford’s mayor and council find themselves. The past several years have been notable for financial challenges and controversy, and increasing burden on taxpayers.

A huge investment on Plan A civic infrastructure – albeit prior to this particular council – was a significant drain on public coffers, and will continue to be for many years, both in terms of debt servicing, and annual operating deficits currently running in the millions. Capital reserves were drawn down, and require replenishing due to massive water and sewer projects looming in five to 10 years.

The controversial AHL Heat contract, signed last year, sees the city on the hook for a supply fee to the privately owned club for 10 years.

Mounting costs from public sector union agreements, expansion of the police force, and overall civic growth issues have all placed additional pressure on limited dollars, resulting in steady tax increases each year, along with utility fee hikes.

While Abbotsford has weathered the global economic storm and changing markets far better than other communities, suffice to say fiscal restraint, and the public perception of same, is still paramount.

There will be a municipal election this November, after which council’s salary and benefit increases, approved this week, take effect.

Cumulatively, it hardly makes for a favourable environment – a questionable condition at the best of times – for elected representatives, some of whom presumably expect to retain their seats, to boost their remuneration, and in the process, test taxpayers’ patience.