Posted January 5, 2015
Question: If consumption of your product drops by 13.3 per cent over the past ten years while the number of customers increases by 13.6 per cent in the same period, why are water rates in Guelph increasing by 4.3 per cent in 2015?
Better still, why have water rates in Guelph increased by 77 per cent compounded in the past eight years? Taking just one year, 2012, Guelph water rates increased by 11.5 per cent.
The total water revenue received by the city in 2014 was $54.7 million. Yet, despite this, the water department budget had a shortfall of $658,000.
Explain how water consumption drops lowering operating costs, and the number of paying customers increases, why is there a recommended 4.3 per cent increase in 2015?
These facts were detailed in a report in the Guelph Mercury that quoted figures supplied by the city water department.
If ever there was a reason for a total independent financial review of all city finances including all departments, this is a clear indication why city finances assumed by the new council need to be reviewed.
The annual audit by Deloitte and Touche covers only a portion of the financial activities of the city. The firm’s mandate is determined by the city that provides the data for the audit that must be submitted annually to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
Even before the recent civic election, several alleged errors that the citizen activist group, GrassRoots Guelph, revealed in those provincially mandated Financial Information Reports (FIR).
Add to the list of serious financial decisions made by the former council, was the approval last August of spending $34 million on renovating the downtown police headquarters.
In the initial meeting of the new council, Coun. Bob Bell moved to review the plans for renovating St. George’s Square on Wyndham Street. He was informed that under a procedural bylaw, council could not review the decisions made by a majority of the previous council.
Not so fast! David Kendrick in his Mercury column said the bylaw in question was crafted to prevent a project being continuously brought up during the term of that council. That was then and this is now. Mr. Kendrick, a former councillor, put it straight when he said the previous council couldn’t tie the hands of its successors.
Coun. Phil Allt also took a similar path in a letter to the editor. He suggested council, regarding intent and legitimate rules of procedure, should review the bylaw.
If council decides not to order a financial review of the city’s finances, operations and procedures, how can councillors make informed decisions to approve a 2015 budget?
There are many significant reasons to conduct such a review. Paramount among them is the post-election reorganization of the senior staff. Chief Financial Officer Al Horsman was shifted to run the waste management department. His former responsibility was moved to Mark Amorosi, with a treasurer to be hired to support him.
After three years since the last senior staff reorganization that created five department heads to manage the city under Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Ann Pappert, it now functions with only three. All three are now appointed deputy CAO’s.
All this occurred after the election. Why, as Ms. Pappert explained, this was in the works long before the election? Why was the announcement made after the Farbridge administration was rebuked in the election?
If it smells like a set-up to continue the Farbridge agenda, it is a set-up.
The city has a problem in which the senior staff is politicized. There are many excellent employees working for the city but leadership has assumed too much power at the expense of the council. A professional senior staff is essential for the smooth operation of the municipality. But they are responsible to council who represent the people
The people voted for change, not an extension of the Farbridge administration’s tax and spend policies.