We all received our property tax notices in the Cowichan Valley this week and they are shocking. My CVRD taxes are up 10 per cent over last year — a completely unreasonable increase that comes with no improvement whatsoever in services. My taxes went up five times the rate of local inflation, which means lots of new spending, pay increases and more CVRD hiring, like their new $120,000-a-year spin doctor.
The yellow page CVRD insert with the tax notice is very dishonest and misleads the public about the magnitude of the real rise in taxes and why they went up. It’s mostly salaries and a bigger bureaucracy, folks.
As usual the CVRD board has rewarded its fat cats with pay increases far in excess of inflation or compared to the real world where taxpayers live. Many of the top earners got pay increases ranging from four to nine per cent.
Of the more than 230 employees there are now 70 in the CVRD who get a minimum of $75,000 and 35 who collect in excess of $100,000 in annual pay — most of these employees are paid up to 30 per cent higher than similar positions in the private sector.
Do we really need to pay someone who books recreation facilities $100,000 per year or an emergency coordinator more than $120,000 each year? These are equivalent to $50 and $60 per hour, plus very generous benefits on top.
Overall salaries increased last year by more than four per cent or $500,000 to $16 million. The elected CVRD directors also lined their own pockets with pay, benefits and expenses totalling $515,000 — a whopping increase of 19 per cent in one year.
The CVRD board again shovelled out $1 million of our tax money as grants to a few lucky groups including the mostly defunct local railway that hasn’t run a train in years. Most of these groups refuse to divulge the salaries they pay their executives, even though much of the money comes from taxpayers.
The CVRD gave those riding the mostly empty transit buses in the valley more than $3 million of our taxes to subsidize cheap bus fares.
CVRD employees also have a very generous pension plan that pays these annual increases until the employee dies as long as 30 to 40 years after retirement. The private sector got rid of defined benefit pensions years ago because they were unsustainable. Yet the CVRD still guarantees such retirement payments for its employees until they die because they can and do nail taxpayers to pick up the slack. Why these public employees should have such benefits that taxpayers can only dream about is really quite scandalous.
Have we ever seen any leadership from the CVRD board to address these issues? Never. And the spending records show the situation is getting worse each year for us disrespected Cowichan taxpayers.
W.E. (Bill) Dumont