A citizen cuts to the chase on budget leadership

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

Guelph

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8 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

8 responses to “A citizen cuts to the chase on budget leadership

  1. boomer

    The last line of this letter speaks VOLUMES. .

  2. DAVID BIRTWISTLE

    Glen:Only if significantly more citizens enter the voting booth than last time which hopefully GRG’s efforts to encourage greater voter participation comes to fruition. david.birtwistle@sympatico.ca

  3. Laura

    The property tax increases will be even more unsustainable if the 1.5 % tax levy to redevelop the downtown becomes a reality. If this 1.5% increase is not directly added to your taxes then how many services will the city be Why should the rest of the ratepayers subsidize million dollar condos downtown????
    The new condo building across from the train station is reaching completion downtown and is advertised as being “90%” sold out. Since this development sold out so quickly, surely the developers can no longer claim that it is risky to develop downtown and that they need the ten year moratorium on property tax increases on their redeveloped property tax rate for their completed project. or a rebate up to 30% of the construction costs of the building. One wonders how much of the new condo owners purchase price we have subsidized.
    Another major cost of the downtown will the district energy Plan. The Downtown is identified as `Zone 2“ The budget is estimated at $170,806,000 and is planned over the next 20 years. the plan identifies that this cost `will require government funding of $64,000,000 and a feed in tariff of 13 cents per kW hour in order to make it financially viable with a 20-year IRR of 11.34“ The cost for the entire District energy plan for the city is $283,030.900 for all three zones identified in the report.,
    The downtown redevelopment will begin thru the Baker Street redevelopment. Initial costs estimated at $28,988,500. The Baker Street development is proposed to be `the first and focal point` This means that the city wants to put a combined heat and power plant in this redevelopment.

    My comments:
    This plan was developed before the current power plant cancellation fiasco, that is going to add a 30% increase to hydro bill
    So are we to expect in addition to the 30% that we will also see 13 cents more per kW hour on our Guelph hydro bills to pay for district energy downtown.

    Also what assurances do we have that the Ontario or federal government will be kicking there $64,000,000 portion any time soon- if ever.

    I don`t recall seeing any information in the last Mercury article about the scots of this downtown district energy plan – when did the Mayor and Council and city staff intend to inform us – after the 2014 election maybe…….

    sorry for the long post but I think that this is important info that needs to be shared

    Laura

    http:www.pabric.com

  4. geo

    Go for it Laura!!

  5. Fred

    If I was running this city I would lay off 25% of the cops, 50% of the firemen,
    and 50% of the bus drivers. About 10 buses went by me yesterday, and most
    had zero passengers. Why do taxpayers who don’t use the bus, pay people
    to drive empty buses around the city.

    These cuts would just be the start.

    • Fred: I agree with cuts to staff but not at the emergency support level. My focus is on the top of the management pile. Yet our Mayor keeps defending them time after time, bristling every time a citizen or councillor questions their performance. Guess she has little choice because they are her people, hand-picked to fulfill her agenda.

  6. geo

    How about Fred takes over H.R. for the City.

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