If you believe what Mayor Karen Farbridge says about Guelph’s stature as a great city admired across the country, don’t look further than the books of the city. In honesty, only the accounting firm of Deloitte and Touche gets to examine the books along with a high-powered packet of senior staff managers.
Close your eyes and get ready for the annual shell game of staff presenting a 5.6 percent tax increase knowing full well that Council will reduce it.
This year’s target of council is the old reliable 3 per cent increase. They do it every year because they can get away with it. Don’t let the taxpayers get too restless is the name of the controlling majority of Council’s game.
Since Karen Farbridge became Mayor, every budget tax increase has exceeded the cost of living inflation index by some 1.5 per cent. Chump change you say? Add it up over five years and the exponential cost is staggering.
Do you believe that tax increases since 2006 amount to more than 19 per cent over five years? Do you know that most residential tax rates in the City of Toronto are lower than in Guelph?
Why can’t staff bring in a budget that reduces city tax rates for change?
For two years the downward spiral of managing city finances has accelerated to the point where debt exceeds the Council-imposed limit; taxes are among the highest of any similar-sized city in the country and the city is unable to retain a professional chief financial officer to run the show.
Meanwhile the infrastructure of the city has been chaotic for almost four years. Millions has been spent on major arterial streets being narrowed, bike lanes, a time clock in the Sleeman Centre, the ice rink/water feature in front of City Hall, and replacement of aging water and sewer facilities.
Good stuff the citizen’s may say. A little sacrifice will only makes the city more livable … but for whom?
The latest staff screwball scheme to raise capital is to sell the streetlights to Guelph Hydro for $7 million. Problem! The city owns Guelph Hydro. Isn’t this a thinly disguised way to overcome the city’s debt crisis by giving to one pot and taking from the other? Note that it was Karen Farbridge who promoted selling Guelph Hydro two years ago. The people and a majority of Council axed that idea.
The Farbridge administration is gasping for air and not without reason. Complicit in all this is a failure to level with the taxpayers and tell the staff to get real. We have already sold the golden goose and it’s time for the staff to cut costs.