Posted December 13, 2012
When Coun. Gloria Kovach stepped up to the plate with her $500,000 staff efficiency idea that was like using a knife in a gunfight. In some ways it was a clever move to bounce the property tax increase below three per cent.
Its weakness is letting the staff come up with the “efficiencies” to lower 2013 spending. It was like handing a cannon ball to a drowning man. It failed to address the most costly part of the budget such as staff salaries, wages and benefits that consumed 89 per cent of the 2011 tax levy.
Compounding the problem is that police and firemen contracts are up for renewal in 2013 This is the same senior staff that proposed an 8.5 per cent 2013 property tax increase last June. Council is now entrusting them to come up with $500,000 in savings over the next year.
The most irritating cost saving decision was stopping the Christmas tree pick-up. The savings is $22,000. That’s a miniscule number in a 2013 budget of $184,000,000. But it manages to tick citizens off and they’ll blame councillors as they truck the stuff to the organic waste transfer point.
Does Guelph have a “world class” waste management system? Presuming that waste management includes picking up the waste of all taxpayers, it comes as no surprise that hundreds of homes in the city have to pay contractors to remove their trash. That’s because the city refuses to perform its service for a number of reasons. The city still charges them on their tax bill for waste pick-up.
The irony is that much of that private pick-up is never sorted but is trundled to the landfill.
Now we move into the big time. Council still approved hiring more people after it was revealed that the official city financial statement in 2011 said the civic staff costs were $155 million of the $174 million budget.
Adding more staff, particularly when there are more than 35 unfilled jobs pointing to a lack of confidence of the city’s employment policies. Even more interesting is the proposal to offer more than $79,000 for a custodial job at the provincial courthouse. Or, how about offering more than $80,000 for a “coordinator of some 23 crossing guards?”
These aren’t phantom jobs. They are indicative of the splurge by staff and its compliant majority of council who have little regard for cost control or the ability of the taxpayers to pay.
It’s interesting that Mayor Karen Farbridge spent some $87,000 in her 2010 re-election campaign. Her main opponent spent 1/10th of that and still received close to 11,000 votes. Most of the source of that funding was support for her and her cohorts on council, by the unions.
If ever organized labour needed to protect its principles, it lay in supporting like-minded councillors. And, that has been the case since 2006.
Employee costs have soared by 65.1 per cent in five years. Compare that to nearby peer cities whose employee costs increased collectively by 43 per cent in the same time frame.
The cost of doing business in 2012 has not been determined yet. And already council has approved adding more staff for 2013.
It’s time to take back our city.