By Gerry Barker
Posted January 18, 2016
While Coun. Phil Allt exalts in the news that Guelph’s unemployment rate is lowest in Canada at 4.2 per cent; he has no qualms in voting for tax increases of 11.1 per cent in his first year in office.
In his first term as councillor, property taxes for 2015 and 2016 were approved. But there are other wrinkles. Council also approved a 4.15 per cent transfer to debt to pay for excessive spending of operations and capital.
Mercy me, I read a column in the Mercury by Kitchener Record reporter, Greg Mercer, who covers baseball and general assignments, applauding the job opportunities that Guelph offers, without being specific.
So, in the public interest, here is the cold hard truth. StatsCan does not measure the residency of the workers in Guelph. All you have to do early in the morning is see all the cars entering Guelph from other municipalities. Same thing happens at the end of the workday when workers return to their homes in Kitchener, Cambridge, Fergus, Rockwood and Puslinch.
Even the Deputy Chief Administrative Officer, Mark Amorosi, the senior staffer responsible for the City of Guelph’s financial management, does not live in the city. He pays his taxes in Hamilton, his home away from the job.
This is another reason that the cost of living in Guelph is 50 per cent higher than either Cambridge or Kitchener. Creating jobs can only be positive if the worker resides in our city and contributes to its operations.
That does not happen with these ghost workers who migrate daily from other jurisdictions and do not contribute a dime to support the city where they work.
We’re Number One, we’re Number One.
Well, we’re tops in Canada for property tax rates, user fees, debt, electricity, and water rates. We have a waste collection system that fails to service more than 13 per cent of the population. Did I explain that property owners, who do not receive city waste collection, pay for it anyway through their taxes?
Our city council is controlled by a Gang of Seven councillors who caucus regularly and independently from the rest of council in their assigned committee room in City Hall? I don’t think the Ontario Municipal Act permits this.
Did the report in the Globe and Mail investigate what happened in building a new city hall that was originally contracted to cost $42 million but ended up costing $65 million?
Has city council dealt with the $23 million shortfall? It wasn’t even mentioned during the 2016 budget meetings.
Speaking of which, while city staff recommended a ten-year, two per cent automatic property tax increase to pay for more than $250 million in infrastructure changes, council bounced that one down the road referring it to a committee.
Still feeling that Guelph is Number One?
Consider that Guelph’s public servants are highly unionized. The city alone is 80 per cent unionized. These unions supported the Farbridge administration, that in turn, was generous with contract increases and improvements.
.Now let’s look at the real number of mostly unionized public servants, Both federal and provincial employees, and the University of Guelph. This city has more employees earning more that $100,000 a year than any other city of similar size in Ontario.
These jobs are secure, highly paid and totally guaranteed by the municipal corporation.
How many Linamar employees have that kind of lifetime security, wages and benefits guarantees?
When our Mayor comments in the Globe and Mail puff piece that he is bringing business to Guelph and that the city is prospering, is a great sales pitch in a national newspaper. He is a salesman but the problems still exist and won’t be solved by hyperbole.
The trouble is that the baggage and costs left from the previous administration are still there. For example, when Mayor Cam Guthrie took office, he was unable to replace the Farbridge administrative assistant in his own office, due to contrived union rules.
The deep-set problem with Guelph is that the unions are still in control through their support of council’s Gang of Seven councillors.
There are so many issues in this city that need to be addressed by intelligent and concerned residents through actively supporting reform.
The dominant Gang of Seven are, for the most part, incompetent and irresponsible members who are echoing the policies of the previous administration that almost brought the city to its financial knees.
So, without public input, Ann Pappert, Chief Administration Officer for the city, agrees to allow DCAO Mark Amorosi, to oversee the finances of the city. Amorosi hired a General Manager of Finances and City Treasurer to manage the city finances. This is a job that this individual has never held before.
This is the underlying problem with which the citizens have to understand and trust the management of their stakeholder interests.
It’s complex and the special interests group that have controlled Guelph for more than eight years, are still in charge.
Now, do you still believe that Guelph is Number One?
They can’t even pick up all the garbage.