Posted December 18, 2013
The following is an edited version of a letter sent to members of Council and the Guelph Tribune. Reprinted with permission.
As happens every year at this time, the Guelph mayor, councillors, and administration play the game of floating a potential property tax increase and then low-balling it to appear they are diligently serving the citizens. The result is an increase that not only outstrips the Canada Price Index increase, but is an unsustainable pillaging of taxpayers wallets.
From 2000 to 2013 the compounded property tax increases have been 85.7% while the compounded CPI increase has been 31.5%. The increases have become so egregious that even the Guelph Chamber of Commerce head honcho realizes they are not sustainable.
Now on top of all this comes the demand for $34 million for Guelph Police Services HQ renovations. At the same time, Chief Bryan Larkin is reportedly withdrawing staff from the recently opened Clair Road facility, jointly shared with the fire and emergency medical services.
If council acquiesces to this outrageous $34 million demand they have two courses of action: Eliminate all other capital budget items or burden citizens with unbearable legacy costs. The aggravating factor is that if council turns down the funding request then unelected people, such as the Chief and Police Services Board, could appeal to an unelected provincial tribunal seeking approval.
There has been blathering in the media about building a business case for the renovations. As it’s time to cut to the chase, following are the essential steps to resolving the funding request.
First step, tell the Chief to cease and desist any talk about or spending of funds on any renovations while reminding him he is an employee of the city who serves at their pleasure of the council.
If he will not comply with this, take the second step and terminate him for cause and hire an interim Chief who will be fiscally responsible and do the bidding of the council. Note that crime rates have been steadily falling in Guelph for the last decade or more.
The third step is to initiate a study by competent individuals on the integration of the police, fire, and ambulance services. The resulting savings would eliminate duplicate support services in the areas of accounting, human resources, procurement, and related functions. These could potentially be sufficient to establish a future new joint services HQ.
Who amongst the mayor and councillors have the backbone to stand up and show fiscally responsible leadership in this area? Remember, this is in essence a lame duck council heading into civic elections in October 2014. Those who continue the outrageous tax increases will be held accountable by the electorate.
Glen N. Tolhurst