Editorial: No time to snooze

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January may be winter doldrums time, but it’s also the month to wake up and connect with government services and elected officials.

If people have not yet opened the envelope containing their 2019 property assessments, they really should do so. While BC Assessment pegs the average Salt Spring residential property increase at 15.31 per cent, a number of property owners have reported increases at double or triple that rate, which could seriously bump up their property tax amounts. The active real estate market of the past few years has naturally translated to valuation increases, but it is up to property owners to do the research required to determine if the hike they have received makes sense when compared to neighbouring properties. A search tool on the BC Assessment website makes it easy to collect relevant assessment and property sales data for one’s area. The deadline to appeal an assessment is Jan. 31.

January is also the season for town hall meetings. Local MP Elizabeth May and MLA Adam Olson have been getting together with constituents in a marathon of meetings and will be on Salt Spring this Thursday and Pender on Friday. It’s an excellent opportunity to raise concerns about provincial and federal matters affecting the islands.

In a similar vein, Salt Spring’s new Capital Regional District director Gary Holman has scheduled a public meeting to talk about the CRD budget and its impacts for islanders. It’s on Tuesday, Jan. 22 at the library program room from 1 to 3 p.m.

Another body with local taxing authority is the Islands Trust. Trustees are meeting with each other and staff this week in Nanaimo to draft a preliminary budget. They will then ask for public feedback before adopting a final budget in March.

It’s easy to believe that government bodies don’t care what constituents think about how they spend their money, but that isn’t necessarily true. At the local level, especially, elected officials and staff tend to be sensitive to criticism and don’t want unhappy campers to deal with.

Often, government bodies do what they do with minimal direction or feedback from the public. Politicians are not mind readers and as bureaucratic processes subsume them they may easily lose touch with those they serve.

Take advantage of upcoming opportunities to let those we elect know how we want our money spent or not spent, and where we want them to direct their energy.

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