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May 13, 2015

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CUPE takes on zero spending, tax plan in Powell River

POWELL RIVER - On the eve of entering into mediation with the City of Powell River, CUPE 798 President Danielle Craigen cautioned Mayor and Council against continuing the previous council’s proposal for zero spending and tax increases to 2019.

“It always sounds like a good idea to tell people their taxes won’t be going up. But there is a high cost to a zero tax policy,” said Craigen. 

Craigen said the experience in the very few other communities that have implemented tax and spending freezes was negative. Rainy day funds and financial reserves were raided, services were cut, and city services and amenities declined. She also warned that the planned tax freeze will largely come on the backs of CUPE city workers.

“City managers salaries have increased, fire and police costs are decided elsewhere, beyond the control of council, and will likely increase. This leaves CUPE members who end up paying the price not only financially, but also with declining service quality, increasing workload and more stress from a frustrated public.”

“When council talked to the citizens of Powell River about a zero tax, we were told that there would be no significant impact of this plan. We weren’t asked what services we are prepared to see cut or how quickly our reserve funds should be drained. We were told that we can have our cake and eat it too. And that simply is not the case.”

Craigen discussed tax and spending freeze experiences in Penticton and Abbottsford with council, noting that both communities acknowledged that the policy had done damage to services and financial stability.

CUPE 798 represents close to 150 members who work for the City of Powell River and provide a wide range of services to the city’s residents and businesses. The collective agreement expired in December 2012. The union took a 98 per cent strike vote on March 25. Mediation with the employer begins on May 14. 

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