Selling off surplus land to pay for things the community wants or needs can be a good strategy, if done properly.
But it should never be done as a means to simply balance the budget for a single year.
That is not a sustainable way to manage our finances.
It’s also a bad idea to balance a budget by dipping into reserve funds.
Reserve funds are our savings. Reserves can be collected in anticipation of paying for a specific project, or they can be used in cases of unforseen emergency, when costs rear their heads that were not part of the annual budget discussions.
Damaging our community’s ability to deal with this type of situation would be irresponsible.
As would be using money that was being set aside for a known future expense to pay for day-today operations.
The operations budget is a separate thing for a reason.
If we are dead set against tax increases then this is where we need to look, and trim if necessary.
We cannot coast along, drying up our reserves or selling off land because the day will
come when it’s all gone, and the expenses remain, with no strategy to pay them.
That’s just putting off dealing with the core issue.
That’s not to say that a municipality should never sell land. In the case of the school district, for example, it only makes sense to look at helping to pay for a new Cowichan Secondary School by selling off the old property. After all, it’s located right in downtown Duncan, a spot that should prove desirable to any number of purchasers.
The Municipality of North Cowichan has used the sale of land for development to fund capital projects in the past and will likely continue to do so in the future.
It’s about weighing the benefit of one community asset against another and deciding which one we want most.
Land is a great asset to have. History has shown that its value will only increase over time.
As the adage goes, it’s the only thing they’re not making any more of. Selling such an asset for a temporary influx of cash rather than making the hard decisions about operational spending is not the way to go.
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