The numbers game

Posted June 13, 2012

This is what happens when you bring CBC comedian Rick Mercer to town.

Page one of the Mercury’s black line is proclaiming: “City ends year with a $6.9M surplus. Move to the first paragraph and the word “almost” in reference to the $6.9 million is used.

It’s a dilemma every headline writer faces: How to write a head that pulls the reader in without distorting the facts. In case you haven’t read the story, the surplus was $6.8 million according to the acting treasurer.

Details.

Then the infighting starts when you turn to page two. There was reference to an unnamed council committee accepting a staff recommendation that the surplus be directed to replenishing reserves. Also accepted was placing $1.1 million in a new reserve entitled “Strategic Reserve.”

Coun. Gloria Kovach complained that the spending was being approved before council had approved the new strategic plan.

You get the drift. It’s the way our business is conducted at 1 Carden Street… spend first and account for it later.

But a more interesting story on page three of the same issue reported the status of scofflaws – those who avoid paying fines to the city. In 2000, the Province downloaded operations of the provincial courts to the municipalities. That year there was $5.6 million in defaulted fines in Guelph.That number grew to $11 million by 2008, when city council wrote off $5 million in defaulted fines.

It now appears there is some $6 million in defaulted fines still on the books today. This was despite efforts by Brad Coutts, the city’s courts manager and his staff, to get people to pay.

The manager said the amount of revenue has remained relatively static for the past decade, despite the huge write-down of uncollected fines four years ago.

Coutts suggested more staff could reduce the outstanding fines. There’s a solution, hire more people to increase revenue.

Isn’t it odd that the city can write off $5 million when the economy is going into the ditch and boast about a $6.8 million surplus in 2011?

That’s either dumb management or good luck.

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2 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

2 responses to “The numbers game

  1. tonyt

    I don’t think I read that any of the surplus was going to pay down debt. Which we have alot of.

    • tonyt; Our current debt costs taxpayers $5.5 million a year to carry the outstanding principle. Yet the capital spending keeps piling on more debt. Already future councils (read taxpayers) are saddled with debt as a result of the Farbridge majority on council keeps building a mountain of debt.

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