Elections

Issa: 3-2-1 is his tax increase promise

Anyone who lives on Coast Meridian Road near Lougheed Highway on Port Coquitlam’s north side knows the impact city policies can have on a neighbourhood.

The nine-foot concrete walls that line what were once front yards are designed to block the sound from increased traffic that came with the new Coast Meridian Overpass.

That $134-million infrastructure project, which connects PoCo’s north and south sides, is the reason William Issa first ran for city council, after he rallied his neighbours against the overpass.

But as the 2011 municipal election approaches — and the CMO stands completed and well-used — the first-time mayoral candidate says he is past that issue and is focusing his campaign on the broader challenges facing the city.

“It is like sitting behind a prison wall,” he said looking at the concrete barrier lining his front yard. “It still bothers me but it is way behind me now and we are moving on.”

These days, taxes are Issa’s main concern and he believes Port Coquitlam residents are paying too much — way too much.

He is calling for a 30% reduction in city spending and keeping tax increases to what he calls a “3-2-1 formula:” a 3% tax increase in the first year of his term followed by a 2% increase in the second year and a 1% increase in the third year. After that, he said, any increase would be pegged to the rate of inflation.

But while Issa’s tax targets are a prominent part of his platform, he offers few details about how he plans to achieve those ambitious numbers.

With union labour contracts, rising fuel prices and other inflationary costs, the city needs to raise taxes by approximately 3% annually (about $2 million) in order to maintain current service levels. Any additional capital projects or services would mean an even larger increase.

Issa has pledged he will not cut services and said most of the savings will come from reducing what he calls “waste spending.”

“My mission as the mayor is to go into each department and look into how efficient each department is spending their money,” he said. “We are basically going to manage that money and make sure we cut down on waste spending.”

The last time the city conducted a core service review was in 2008 and the process led to $770,000 in savings. In order for Issa to achieve a 30% reduction in spending, a similar review would have to find about $23 million in savings, not including the property tax reductions that are part of his 3-2-1 plan.

But despite the gap in Issa’s budget plans, he maintains that what he is promising is achievable by engaging the public and working with city staff.

“Election time is where everybody starts to throw promises they can’t deliver,” he said. “I will not promise anything that is not deliverable.”

Issa has not only pledged to maintain services, he is proposing increasing it in certain areas. He said he wants to re-instate weekly garbage collection from its current bi-weekly schedule, which the city implemented in 2010 in an effort to reduce waste and save money. There was not enough consultation with the public when council proposed the issue, Issa said, and he will work with the community to bring the service back.

The bi-weekly collection service, he added, forces people to hang on to their garbage for a longer period of time, which can attract bears and other unwanted animals the city has had difficulty dealing with.

“People are very upset about it,” he said. “People pay too much taxes for less service.”

 

CHECK HIM OUT ONLINE

• For more information about William Issa and his mayoral campaign go to http://votewilliamissa.tripod.com.

gmckenna@tricitynews.com

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