Balancing the budget and living withing your means are great.
This is true both for individuals and governments. But there are times when you have to borrow some money in order to save yourself even more down the road, or to get or build something for your community that is in its best interests.
Lake Cowichan Mayor Rod Peters has made the controversial call for the town to borrow some money to deal with what he says is a whole host of crumbling infrastructure in parks, sewer systems, roads, sidewalks, water systems and more.
It’s almost never popular for elected officials to announce they’re going to spend a bunch of money on something that the taxpayers will have to foot the bill for. That is why, all too often, infrastructure projects are left waiting indefinitely, while elected officials worry about re-election. This is true at the federal and provincial level as much as it is at the municipal level.
Look at our roads, schools and hospitals, bridges, tunnels and railroads. Too often we wait so long that repairs are no longer enough to bring it up to snuff, and we have to start from scratch at an even bigger cost.
We understand why it’s so hard for politicians. Nobody wants to say that they’re raising taxes — voters hate that. And it’s an easy stick for your opponents to hit you with over and over again during a campaign.
But nor do people like it when their car is swallowed by a pothole, they fall and break and ankle because there are huge cracks in the sidewalk, and their child’s school has the same carpet and paint as when they went there, and no way would it stand up during an earthquake.
The bills are starting to come due on a lot of stuff that was built decades ago and never kept up. Often, we’d guess, it wasn’t a master plan to starve facilities and infrastructure of funds for maintenance. But when emergencies crop up, or new expenses are dropped on a new level of government, it can be easy to put off that maintenance job for another year, and then another, to save a little money, until the bill for the fix balloons into the elephant in the room.
So while taking on a debt is controversial, it only makes sense to fix the road before you have to do more than re-pave, you have to replace the whole road bed first.
Safe drinking water and properly functioning sewer systems are key priorities that must be maintained.
By all means, get grants for as much of the cost as possible. But don’t put all of your eggs in that one basket.