I would like to talk about the proposed 7% property tax increase in the 2022 budget and what has led up to this situation.
It is important to note that the Town administration has advocated for moderate tax increases for years now. The ‘sticker shock’ of this proposed tax increase wasn't the Town administration’s fault. Despite those recommendations, the current/previous council passed a zero per cent tax increase in the last budget. The motivation for passing a zero per cent increase budget right before an election is open for speculation but the results are not.
The only way a zero per cent tax increase was possible at a time of unprecedented spending was by increasing debt, draining our financial reserves, postponing the effects of previous borrowing, a dangerous overuse and redirection of the off-site levy fee’s paid by developers and ignoring financial realities.
In 2012 we had reached 27 per cent of our maximum debt level. By 2024 this maximum debt is estimated to be 79 per cent and will rise even further to 96 per cent by 2026.
These debt projections are meaningless if there is an unexpected loss of revenue. The debt projections in the 2021-2023 budget were lower than current projections. We would have to change how much we were willing to borrow for any new spending or if things go wrong.
We have potentially catastrophic financial problems right now, and this council is almost solely responsible for that. What this means for Cochrane’s financial future is anyone’s guess right now.