KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAWhen only two or three people show up to a public hearing on a city budget, it means the city is either doing a bang up job, or people just generally don’t care. Council yesterday voted to move this years budget to public hearing, but Councilor Sam Waddington didn’t let it go easily. He took issue with some items in the budget.

“We put $6.5 million into a curling rink for the budget, and I know the curling community is very excited about that, but I guess I just look at $6.5 million and that’s a lot of money to me for a (relatively) small group of people who use it. We have other private clubs that benefit from civic facilities, but I don’t necessarily think we should be (funding everything).  I am a rock climber, but we don’t have a publicly funded rock climbing gym.”

Waddington also said he’d be OK with a higher tax increase if it meant funding more local projects. While Chilliwack prides itself on having the lowest taxation in the lower mainland, he doesn’t think that’s necessarily a good thing.

“I personally don’t take pride in being at the bottom of the heap.  I’d like to see Chilliwack become a bit more competitive.  I’m a taxpayer myself, so I don’t like higher taxes, but we fund the community that we want based on the taxes we charge.  My personal preference would be to see a few things funded in this budget that currently aren’t and the only way to do that is to tax appropriately.”

The proposed property tax increase this year is 1.49%, or roughly an extra $23 for an average home. Councilor Jason Lum says the city has done it’s work…it’s up to the public now.

“Council gets a chance to look at this stuff a lot longer, so we’re familiar with what we’re about to see on the power point but the public doesn’t really have that chance. I think the opportunity to have the public come and speak and provide us with input on this is critical. I think it would be great to hear from some of those groups or individuals affected in priority areas.  Unfortunately, we get very few people who come…I could probably name them right now.”

Mayor Sharon Gaetz added that the budget is created through public consultation to begin with…it’s not a personal city staff wish list. Folks can view the budget HERE, come to the public hearing on March 17th, or comment by email at budget@chilliwack.com