good news missing

The Peace Arch News felt it fit to put White Rock’s budget on the front page of yesterday’s edition, but then only dedicated a few paragraphs to the subject. As you would expect from an attempt to boil down a city’s five year financial plan into such a short article, a lot of important information was missing.

The first problem is that the headline declares a $118 tax jump. But that is the average for a single detached house. Those make up only half of the homes in White Rock. The other half are condos, for which the average tax increase is $55. The headline is alarmist and misleading to at least half the taxpayers in White Rock.

Councillor Peddemors is quoted as saying that another RCMP dispatcher is required to “ensure we’re self-sufficient.” The article threatens that without the additional staff, “White Rock would have to use Surrey’s dispatchers.”

This is true, but the article gives no mention of the motivation for maintaining this independence. Unlike Surrey, White Rock has a philosophy of “no call too small”. In order for that to continue, White Rock must have an independent dispatch. It’s not about guarding our line in the sand. It’s about maintaining the higher standard of service our taxpayers expect.

The article also, as a by-product of expedience, gives the wrong impression on fuel costs. It says that the city will spend “$28,000 more on fuel for its fleet of vehicles.” While there is an increase in the budget for fuel, it isn’t in anticipation of increased spending on fuel. It simply reflects what was spent last year. The dramatic jump in gas prices last year caused fuel spending to go over budget. Knowing that gas prices aren’t going down, City staff have budgeted for the same amount that was spent last year.

It’s interesting that the article glossed over the fact that the City will become debt-free this year. For all the moaning and abuse directed at the City and Council about taxation and questions of fiscal restraint, the reality is that White Rock is doing exceptionally well. Come April, the City will have no long-term debt, we are already ahead of most other local cities in catching up on road and sewer maintenance, and our taxes are dropping from the top of the regional list toward the middle. That all sounds like good news to me, though you won’t read it in The Peace Arch News.

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