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Amalgamation, surplus top issues for Nielsen

My name is George Nielsen and I first came to the Cowichan Valley in 1990. I have been married to my wife and companion, Juleen, for 22 years. We consider Duncan to be the best place in Canada to live.

I am a professional accountant by trade and also hold a degree in business administration. I have worked for some large organizations on Vancouver Island and, here, in the Cowichan Valley, assisting them with budgeting, planning, and achieving their bottom line goals. This includes stints as a finance manager with Thrifty Foods overseeing monthly production of their 22 stores' financial statements; a similar position with Island Savings Credit Union, a half billion dollar organization; and with the Country Grocer chain.

As well, I worked for several years with one of the largest non-profit organizations in the province, Beacon Community Services. Currently, I am the controller for a group of companies which includes the Beverly Corners Marketplace, the Beverly Corners Liquor Store, Country Grocer Salt Spring, and various other business concerns.

In terms of community involvement, I served a term as the treasurer for the Duncan-Cowichan Chamber of Commerce, have been the treasurer for the Peninsula Players Society in Sidney and have chaired United Way campaigns. I do not consider myself to be a politician, although I did run for a spot on Duncan city council many years ago.

My interests include golf, travel, and music. As a contrast to my day job, I work some weekends and evenings as a disc jockey for weddings, Christmas parties, etc. for my small business, All Night Long DJ Services.

What issues concern you most and why?

I am in favour of exploring amalgamation with North Cowichan further to see if there are possibilities to save the taxpayers of the Valley money through reductions in duplications of services and the creation of efficiencies.

I have a bias for action versus endless discussion with no resolution. I would bring a common sense, no-nonsense attitude to council.

I am for development that makes sense, both from a fiscal and environmental view. But I think we need to entice new businesses to the Valley to fill the current empty commercial spaces before developing very many new ones.

I believe the citizens of Duncan have been overtaxed for a number of years. Duncan has run the following surpluses for the past five years:

2013 — $1,915,818; 2012 — $4,337,475; 2011 — $2,928,090; 2010 — $706,807; 2009 — $2,671,863

The 2013 financial statements show a total of almost $14 million in cash and short term investments alone.

This is money that came from each one of the taxpayers of Duncan. You are all part-owners of the City of Duncan. This is money that you could have used to pay for groceries, or daycare, or for heating your home.

Several years ago, the City of Duncan set up a Police Bridging Capital fund. The city had received $1,351,519 in policing costs back from the province because the population of the city fell below 5,000 residents.

Instead of giving that money back to its citizens or reducing taxes, the city, in anticipation of the population of the city exceeding 5,000 at the next go round, kept the money.

On top of this, they kept taxing you in case the population ever tops 5,000. This may not happen, but the city keeps building up the fund. What's more, they have not been using it for policing costs but have been spending it on other things like dike work and sewer improvements.

Why, when they have over $14 million in cash and a surplus of nearly $33.3 million, do they need to do this?

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George Nielsen@geohans1