I was in the coffeeshop a few weeks ago when city taxes was in the news, and I heard a loud debate at the next table, between a town guy and a Barclay guy.  Town guy was proclaiming that the only thing he gets that Barclay doesn’t is sewer and water, and he pays for that on a separate bill, it is not tax dollars.  Most of the city taxes are for police and recreation and roads and stuff the province demands, and that benefits Barclay as much as the town guys.  Barclay guy says yeah, but I don’t use any of that stuff.  Town guy says ok, a big chunk is school tax, and another goes to welfare, are you saying only the guys who have kids should pay for education, or you shouldn’t pay for the arena because you don’t skate, or welfare because you don’t expect to need it? Get a life!

That shut that conversation down for a bit, and I said to my table, all fellows from outside the city, “that city debate worries me, it seems they are saying we are not paying our fair share out in the unorganized.   Wish I could get a look at that city budget, and see how much they are paying that we aren’t”.  Big Bob, one of my neighbours over toward Oxdrift,  said his son Little Bob is really interested in stuff like this, and might have a copy of the city budget.

Anyway, Big Bob turned up the other day with a copy of the city’s 2011 budget, which includes the 2010 actual results, said that was the newest he could get.  Little Bob had made some notes, and we sat down for coffee and went through them.  Little Bob had worked out that the average household in Dryden paid $1900 in taxes in 2010, which includes $250 for the school board and $400 for boards not part of the city, like the board of health and the old folks home, leaves $1250 for the city.  He said the recreation, roads, police and fire alone cost more than that, so it’s a good thing the mill still pays a lot of tax.

My place out here is pretty small, and my tax bill is $1000 per year.  Little Bob thought that we are getting a break in the unorganized alright, but not as big as people think, when you factor in we have reduced standards for roads, no streetlights, no fire hydrants, no natural gas, lousy internet, and so on.

As usual, my recluse neighbour Joe has an opinion.  Actually, a whole lot of them. He said people spend more on cigarettes and lottery tickets and Timmies than on municipal taxes, and ten times more in taxes to the province and the feds.  He thinks people are upset because they see so much government waste and corruption, and even if municipal taxes is not that big a deal, at least at the municipal level they can make their anger heard.

“Fire and liability insurance and mortgages are cheaper and easier to get in a municipality”, he says, “and your property value is protected by zoning, and your land can be divided, so your property would be worth more if we were in a municipality.  I suppose that means in the long run we would be better off in a municipality.  The trouble is, in the long run, we will all be dead.  In the short term, we get a bit of a break on taxes!”

Joe was silent for a minute, then added “of course the way things are going, with our rural taxes doubling over the past few years, that advantage is disappearing.  Anyway it’s a pretty safe bet that the province will force us all into municipalities sooner or later.  BC did that a few years ago, they just expanded all the municipalities until their boundaries touch, case closed.”

So after all that, I am still not sure what to think.  Sooner than later I will be looking at Princess Court, and I kind of wish I could feel just as entitled to be there as the town guys who support it with their taxes.

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