How the University has taken advantage of Guelph taxpayers

Posted May 18, 2012

It started in 1983 when the Ontario Universities and Colleges were granted a special deal by the Provincial government. In lieu of municipal property taxes, those institutions were granted a $75 per student charge. It’s called the bed tax.

It hasn’t changed in 29 years. No adjustment for inflation.  It was the gift the provincial governments of all stripes gave to municipalities, that keeps giving.

Well, it didn’t work out that way.

As taxpayers are aware, a lot has changed in our society in the past 29 years.

In Guelph, the University has grown from a small educational institution with perhaps 5,000 students in 1983 to whopping 22,000 students today and counting.

So, what’s the big deal?

Well, the expansion of this University has created pressure on the city to accommodate an influx of part-time students every year.

This accommodation includes increased cost for transit services. Students pay for bus passes at a discount that residents do not receive. The city must operate a service that accommodates a six-month influx of 22,000 students that has driven the taxpayer subsidy of public transit through the roof.

In addition, there has been dramatic development of the University that has affected such city services as water and sewer facilities, power, roads, fire, medical and police services, and additional city staff to process the growth.

Is $75 per student in 1983 still worth $75 today? One estimate is $121.50 compounded over 29 years.

Let’s examine the difference between what the city will receive in 2012 from the University in lieu of property taxes and what the city should receive when inflation is factored in.

In 2012, the city, (based on $75 X 22,000 students.) will receive $1,650,000.

Based on the inflated value of the dollar, ($121.50), the total is $2,673,000.

The shortfall is $1,023,000.

Local single-family neighbourhoods have been turned into student ghettos. The municipality has given the right to unscrupulous landlords to convert those homes into multi-occupational residences.

The past month has witnessed the debacle as students decamp at the end of the second semester. Garbage, and unwanted furniture dumped on the streets has plagued residents living near the University.

It’s the dross of a generation that doesn’t give a damn about the consequences that affect its temporary home, our city.

Yet the University does nothing except oppose a proposal to build a private student hi-rise residence at the corner of Gordon and Stone road.

City council does nothing stating if they enforce legal zoning restrictions, the Ontario Civil Rights organizations will fight the matter in the courts on the grounds of discrimination against students.

Then we have the Guelph Chamber of Commerce gloating about the University’s economic value to the city.

I guess if you operate one of the 33 bars downtown you would agree. Especially when the University closes down its pubs to remove ant competition. During student season – September to April – downtown on weekend is soaked (pun) with students seeking to unload their problems with booze.

The laughable attempted by Coun. Ian Findlay and former Coun. Mike Salisbury to set up temporary pissoirs (male only) to stop indiscriminate public urination after the bars closed, was an abject failure.

This failed experiment played into the Farbridge administration ‘s determination to turn Guelph’s downtown in a vibrant and exciting place. After spending millions to accommodate this dream, the strategy recently changed and council approved high-rise condos of up to 18 stories to be built.

The strategy is to bring residential development downtown to fulfill the Mayor’s dream. Good luck with that.

But this ill-fated dream has turned to mush as problems with the University student behaviour has either been ignored or hidden from public view. You choose.

As an observation, some Farbridge supporters on council have ties to the University. This would preclude any firm action on the part of council to correct serious and ongoing student problems that taxpayers face.

Most taxpayers would say: “I don’t understand the problem.”

That’s just the way this council wants you to believe.

It’s another example of gutless administration and mushroom politics.

Interpretation: Keep the natives in the dark.

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3 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

3 responses to “How the University has taken advantage of Guelph taxpayers

  1. paul phelan

    Very well put… an 18 story highrise is ridiculous….the university should be caughing up more money per student toward the city coffers for sure…and Farbrige ….well we all know about her and her entourage of sheep….best to put them all out to pasture…when is the next election and when will the citizens of Guelph vote in some competent council members and a leader who knows how to run a city….

    • David Birtwistle

      Let your City Council,MPP and the Ministry of Education know how outdated and costly this matter is to the City of GUELPH and its permanent residents/businesses/etc. and it must be changed to come in line with the economic realities of the cost of managing an expanding municipality and will become even more necessary considering the impact of “Places to Grow” legislation and our water sourcing being from groundwater.Let your voice be heard!

    • David: This inequity has festered long enough. It’s time council and MPP Liz Sandals do their job and inject some fairness to the taxpayers. But then, perhaps the matter will be settled after the next election when new people take over and press the issue with the Province.

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