Editorial: Budget time: don’t freak out immediately

It’s important to find out where in the budgeting process that local council is.

Don’t freak out too soon.

That’s what people should remember when they’re reading stories about the budget processes that our Cowichan Valley municipalities and regional district are going through this spring.

It’s easy to see a headline about how one of our local governments is mulling a big tax increase and blow a gasket. But before you do, it’s important to find out where in the budgeting process that local council is.

Because councils always look at a whole host of options, as they should, for projects for the coming year, staffing needs and so on, and the numbers attached to all of those things. We think it’s important for our elected representatives to do this. If they don’t contemplate some of these things that fall outside the box, we would miss out on a lot of potentially great projects and services. The important thing is that they pare down from this initial “everything on the table” package. Nobody wants a giant double-digit tax increase. Most people can’t afford it, either.

If, as council prepares to adopt the budget, you think the tax increase is still unacceptably high, then, by all means, raise your voice in censure as loudly as you want. It’s not even a bad idea to let local elected officials know what you think as they contemplate their options, even early on. Many of our local governments now host public meetings solely for this purpose. Turnouts don’t tend to be large. They’d love to see you there.

But it’s a good idea, during those initial stages, not to condemn the process itself before it’s had a chance to play out. Keep an eye on it, absolutely. That’s why we publish news stories on the subject as the budget process proceeds. But don’t think that possible seven per cent North Cowichan was looking at is written in stone. They’re now looking at about three per cent. As is the City of Duncan.

We’re keeping an eye on the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s nine per cent. Stay tuned.

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