I write a personal blog on a regular basis (if you are interested you can read me at http://alby59.wordpress.com/). In my very first blog, I wrote about what psychologists call "The Goldilocks Dilemma". You know the story about the family of bears that goes out for a stroll before dinner and the little rude girl called Goldilocks. She enters their house unbeknownst to them and makes a mess out of it. The girl's dilemma, in the story and while she explores her new environment, is to find what is comfortable or suitable to her. The chair is too big or too small, the soup is too cold or too hot, the bed is too hard or too soft. Goldilocks always finds the middle ground and chooses one of the three chairs, or one of the three soups, or one of the three beds that are suitable to her level of comfort. Dr. Steven Berglar, author of the book "Reclaiming the Fire", which explores the Goldilocks Dilemma in professionals, tells us that, "as time goes on, professionals usually become creative and self-directed. Ultimately, though, everyone of them reaches a point where the need for eustress (positive stress or healthy stress) and the predilection to feel in control and protected from the embarrassment or shame of failure achieve a perfect balance." At this point, according to our good doctor, the Goldilocks dilemma ensues, which is: endure an already mastered task whose challenges are too cold (under stimulating and likely to precipitate frustration and ennui), take on challenges that are too hot and threaten to disrupt self-esteem, or find a mechanism that will free them from remaining between two undesirable alternatives.
Lake Country, as a community, like all other communities in Canada and many others in the World, is facing this very same quandary. The dilemma is with respect to what to do with our aging infrastructure. The reality is that we own circa $250 million of infrastructure, which includes roads, water and sewer systems, parks and facilities. We know that in the next 20 to 30 years, we will need to spend $120 million to keep this infrastructure from deteriorating to a point of no use. Where is the money coming from?
The District and all other municipalities are left with the problem and the following limitations:
- Limited access to revenues. Basically, the only source of revenue is the property tax, which is applied on the assessed value of a property. The District has no control over the assessment, which is done by the Province through BC Assessment.
- Limited value for taxes collected. Only $8 out of $100 of taxes collected go to municipalities. The rest go to federal and provincial governments.
- Limited tax base. There has been very little growth in the last two years, so we are not gaining much new growth value.
- Requests from the residents to keep the same level of services provided (if not better or more). This is becoming more and more costly. Just in 2011, it will cost the District $460,000 more due to inflation increase and contractual obligations. For instance the RCMP contract will cost $135,000 more next year.
- No industrial tax base. We have no industry (or very limited) and so the overwhelming majority of our taxes comes from residential properties. This is not good as population ages and financial resources decrease.
In order to keep our infrastructure from reaching an unacceptable level of deterioration, we need to spend $4.2 million every year. Again, where does the money come from? As the answer is obvious, the dilemma becomes quite complicated. Council heard about this on December 14th and asked staff to work on a budget that would meet at least three requirements:
- Maintain the current level of service provided to the community and residents. Councillor told staff that they heard from the taxpayers that they do not want any reduction in services. We cannot go backward but forward.
- Replenish the current reserves, which have been depleted in the last two years.
- Address the issue of aging infrastructure, as I explained it before.
We are working on solving the dilemma. Any options must be sensitive to the impact of any increases to individuals and families. However, the community owns its assets and needs to understand that they should be kept to a reasonable level of enjoyment not only for the time being but also for future generations. And people in the community need to be prepared.