With respect to copies of a chain letter from Gary Churchill and others to the editor of The Shoreline News dated January 6th, and an article by Mark Squibb, “Witless Bay council targets businesses for taxes in last minute budget,” I submit this response. There’s a lot to unpack there.
Let’s start with the fact that this council has hastily developed and approved a budget without sharing any details with the public, nor asking for input. As with everything that goes down in Witless Bay, it was discussed and approved behind closed doors, bereft of any public awareness. That flies in the face of the legislative requirements set out in the Municipalities Handbook. It specifically requires “Mandatory public engagement and awareness ….”
Since this council took office, they have been ruling over the taxpayers of Witless Bay. No one knows what they are privately discussing and planning to enact until they do it in closed meetings where we get the honor of listening without speaking. I also asked Witless Bay clerk, Ms. (Barb) Harrigan, about opening the meetings and she said of one of the council members, ‘she’ doesn’t want to be on camera. So is her comfort more important than the legislative processes that oversee municipalities, and that which affords us our rights to transparency and a voice?
Here’s a tip for whoever ‘she’ is. Turn off the camera! Good lord. And read the handbook! Maybe being a public servant is not for her.
Additionally, we have zero documentation (in) the sparsely detailed budget document being posted after they approved it. There is a host of documents that council is required to provide as per the Municipal Affairs manual. Where are they? I wonder if a class action lawsuit from the residents of Witless Bay would force them to follow the rules.
On the budget, at least they acknowledged the previous council was successful in getting a waiver from the “Own Source Revenue” clause, and the town was awarded a large sum in the form of a grant. Kudos. I guess they did something right despite the attacks from those who now hold office.
I don’t want to get into the nitty gritty of the budget, but I will point out a couple of glaring inconsistencies with logic. First, they plan to acquire more debt, and there are ‘capital projects’ that our tax dollars will cover. Yet the revenues are down. No waiver, so no grants. While residential taxes are set to be lowered by 0.5mil as per a campaign promise, business taxes across the board are raised. As pointed out in the article, only the business tax rising from 12 to 12.5 is mentioned. But raised taxes also include; banks 40-50, fish plant 18-25, old age home 6-7, minimum biz tax is ?, new home permit fees ?, biz tax permit fees ?, some permit fees ?, all raised but still uncertain as to amount. So much for promoting business investment in Witless Bay, also a campaign promise. Good luck with that.
What struck me more than anything was their decision to raise taxes on vacant lands, also an untold amount. Take note folks who have properties yet to be developed. Here we have a council that spent their first weeks in office working on nothing but clandestinely rescinding motions that protected people’s property rights. Maybe more attention to the budget would have been prudent. But I digress. The Deputy Mayor has spent over a decade hauling Ronnie Harte’s property into her quest, working feverishly to deprive him of his property rights. So now they think he should be paying more taxes on a property that the town has effectively confiscated from him. Am I the only one who sees a problem with this? It takes quite a sense of entitlement to try to justify that.
I suggest that the people of Witless Bay start opening their eyes and keep a close watch on what this council is doing. They have taken your voice. I’m gobsmacked at people’s silence. The town spent a lot of tax dollars when (Lorna) Yard was on the other side of the fence fighting with council. It was she draining the coffers (by forcing the Town to hire lawyers to defend itself) while complaining about council spending revenues in defense. What did she expect? Everyone doesn’t just roll over when she demands something. Now we have to spend tax dollars fighting the current council because she, and the rest apparently, refuse to acknowledge reality?
At the end of the day, they’ll keep this up until the taxpayers again have to pay council’s legal bills to fight against our own property rights. Enough of our dollars have been spent on the Deputy Mayor’s pet project. She is so intricately involved in this that she is blinded to any kind of open-mindedness or sense of fair play. It appears the rest of council is lock step behind her.
Mayor (Trevor) Croft on two occasions was required to investigate certain actions, and his only response was, go hire a lawyer. Quite a cavalier response considering it’s our tax dollars that would have to answer to these lawyers. Very generous of him to offer up our money to protect him from his lack of commitment to his job description. The very notion that they can police themselves is absurd. Mayor Croft, is Yard running the show? The people of Witless Bay sure have nothing to do with it. Are you simply going to pander to her whims and ignore what is happening in our town?
I ask Mayor Croft again, meet with Ronnie Harte and get this sorted out. Do your job instead of fighting so hard to avoid this glaring injustice. The town will not see peace until you do the right thing. Focus on bringing people together and building up Witless Bay, not continuing to tear it apart after a decade of infighting. Do the right thing. You answer to all taxpayers, not just the anonymous ones, and those who agree with you and council.
Respectfully submitted by