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Cowichan Tax Busters demand municipal belt-tightening

Cowichan Tax Buster Peggy Bran is urging North Cowichan citizens to make better budget management and lower taxes a fall election issue. - Peter W. Rusland
Cowichan Tax Buster Peggy Bran is urging North Cowichan citizens to make better budget management and lower taxes a fall election issue.
— image credit: Peter W. Rusland

Peggy Bran is mad as hell, and won’t take any more taxes.

The Crofton resident has started the Cowichan Tax Busters to solve what Bran panned as rampant tax hikes by North Cowichan council.

The Tax Busters’ debut discussion happens in Crofton’s Old School House at 7 p.m. on July 24 — and Bran hoped to make leaping local levies an election issue in B.C.’s Nov. 15 civic vote.

“We hope the electorate will have the true facts and figures in front of them to make a decision come election time,” she said. “Everyone you ask what the main issue is in the municipality has the same answer: taxes.

“They’re skyrocketing. During the past 10 years, taxes in the municipality have doubled. People are being taxed out of their homes.”

So Bran is demanding a North Cowichan tax freeze in 2015; a line-by-line review of the municipality’s $44-million (2014) budget “to see where to improve”; developer and realtor consultation to gauge taxpaying-development opportunities; and less municipal studies.

“Stop hiring consultants and doing studies,” she stated.

Examining the budget would allow council and citizens to see where council could make cash cuts.

“Every budget has areas that can be pared back.”

One area on Bran’s chopping block would be future staff additions.

“There hasn’t been any significant new developments — they’re at their lowest, so why do we need increased staff when development is at an all-time low?”

Instead, Bran pitched more taxes for the public purse by making North Cowichan “more developer friendly.”

“All the planners in the world won’t increase development. You have to set the table by courting developers.”

She also suggested talking to realtors about pinpointing accessible land and waterfront property for development.

“You have to step outside the little box that’s drawn by staff,” said Bran.

“Council rubber stamps what staff says. It’s council’s duty to represent all constituents, not select groups.”

This year saw council jack taxes by 2.64%, slightly below its earlier expected push to 3.05%. Last year’s tax uplift was 3.7%.

“But why talk about sewers, water mains and roundabouts when we don’t have our financial house in order?” Bran asked. “All our figures come straight from the municipal website.”

A Cowichan Tax Busters session is also being planned for Duncan. Call 250-324-6652, or visit info@cowichantaxbusters.ca.

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