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Fiscally conservative

Parksville and Qualicum Beach are the most fiscally responsible municipalities on Vancouver Island, according to a new Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) report.

“It’s not a one-off or a fluke, it’s the result of ongoing fiscally conservative decisions by council,” Parksville mayor Chris Burger was happy to boast, but he cautioned against putting too much emphasis on the report.

“CFIB is a lobby group that’s critical of local government, but as a comparison it’s still valid,” he said.

The B.C. Municipal Spending Watch 2013 report looks at what it calls the “sustainability of municipal finances by ranking municipalities based on their operating cost and rate of spending growth over the past decade.”

It says that since municipalities cannot run deficits, spending means increasing taxes, “which from past research that CFIB has done, usually gets transferred disproportionately to small business.”

Overall tone of the report is that spending is too high in B.C. starting with the claim that the average family of four would have saved $5,300 in municipal taxes over the last 11 years if operating costs had been kept at inflation levels.

The report singles out just a few communities for keeping per capita spending at or below the rate of inflation and population growth, lead by Parksville at zero increase from 2000 to 2011 and Qualicum Beach at minus four per cent.

Even province wide only Kaslo, in the West Kootenays, beat the local municipalities.

“Our fiscal responsibility to our residents is our number one priority,” said Qualicum Beach mayor Teunis Westbroek who hadn’t seen the report, but was happy with the ranking.

“That’s one thing this council is in solid agreement on,” he said, pointing out, “Council hasn’t changed the long term financial plans which were established in our 2001 capital projects plan.”

Burger said the ranking is also an endorsement of city employees.

“I’d put our staff up against any in the province,” he said adding that they have been able to keep a high level of services despite the fiscal restraint.

Burger said that some residents still grumble that council is “too generous,” but he also hears people pushing for higher service levels and he’s happy with the current balance.

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