Why does the city administration ignore reducing the costs of overhead?


By Gerry Barker

December 12, 2016

To the people who manage our city – the senior staff and city council – last Wednesday’s 2017 budget discussion was just another day at the office.

Again we face increased taxes with little attempt to reduce the costs of living in Guelph that have substantially increased since the advent of the Farbridge dominated council in 2007.

The root cause is the cult of infallibility. It is a state of government that largely ignores the basic interests of the citizens. For eight years, there was no recourse for citizens to object or complain about the rising costs of living here.

Then along came Urbacon and the citizens reacted predictably by defeating the mayor and two of her loyalist councillors while two other decided not to run.

Yes, the only recourse a citizen has occurs every four years. There is no right to recall or dismiss elected officials. Nor is there any opportunity to question the management, the hired professionals, who, for ten years now, have continued the failed policies of the former Farbridge administration.

Nothing has changed since 2014. There are now eight councillors who continue to support the past record of mismanagement, that wasted millions on failed projects, and worst of all, lack the expertise or willingness to reform a broken government.

Now we know that the Group of Seven progressives, who have been in control of city council for ten years, believe they are infallible when it comes to running our city. At the same time the four realists on council face a difficult, if not impossible task of reforming the way the city is currently being managed. In the middle is Mayor Guthrie who walks a tightrope between the two factions in an attempt to maintain harmony and compromise.

It is now painfully apparent that the eight progressives’ stubbornly believe that they are infallible and know what’s best for the city and its residents. They are mostly ordinary folks with limited experience in overseeing a corporation worth more than $500 million. What they do have is the support of a senior management that essentially is running the city.

Citizens make their views known but are largely ignored.

Even when an experienced professional expert, Pat Fung CPA CA, presents a thorough eight-page analysis of four years plus, of city financial operations compared to other like-sized cities, the senior staff and Group of Seven progressives ignore the details and solid advice.

In fact they added ten new permanent employees to the staff. Four were Paramedics to serve Erin Township through an agreement with the township.

So while the weekly Guelph Pravda newspaper weighs in claiming that the new budget cuts the fat, somebody must have had a thumb of that scale.

The Fung report nails the root cause of our runaway taxes on all levels. Property taxes are up 10.08 per cent since the Mayor was elected. Remember? He promised to create a “Better Guelph” and keep property tax increases to the rate of inflation. How’s that working for you?

For some inexplicable reason, the senior staff fails to consider what each resident must pay to live in this city. They disregard the ever-growing cost of staff and liabilities, electricity, water, storm water maintenance, Wynne’s carbon tax and city services user fees. My complaint lies with the annual assessment increases that hit property owners every year. Each property valuation uptick adds revenue to the city.

Regardless, we still get stuck again with a budget increase of $3.13 per cent. Oh! We are told that a house assessed at $350,000 with the increase of 1 per cent, jokingly known as the “infrastructure levy,” that the increase will only amount to $120.

I had hopes that CAO Derrick Thomson would clean up the high cost of operations that are 50 per cent higher that either Kitchener or Cambridge. Despite the warning of the progressive, cutting overhead costs does not mean cutting public services. It’s a myth perpetrated annually. Thomson did not help when he warned last September that public services would not be cut in the 2017 budget but did not mention overhead.

Yep, the thumb is still on the scale and the people are stuck with it.

When they believe they are right and continue to tap the purses and wallets of the people, that’s because they believe they are infallible. There is only one guy I know that carries the rite of infallibility, and he lives in Rome.

The only way it can change is coming in October 2018 when we can elect responsible and experienced people to represent the people’s interests. When you have a councillor, Mark MacKinnon, says that because your home has increased in value, you can take out a reverse mortgage or refinance an existing mortgage or take out a second or third mortgage to pay your taxes. Spoken like a mortgage expert.



Filed under Between the Lines

8 responses to “Why does the city administration ignore reducing the costs of overhead?

  1. The Towne Winer

    . Spoken like a mortgage expert.

    Gee, too bad Cam wasn’t a former mortgage broker….

  2. Joe Black

    The corruption never ends …….t

  3. Rena

    The continued arrogance and ignorance of our elected representatives leaves me dumbfounded.

  4. Glen

    While the number of new FTE’s is being tallied, don’t forget the 3 added under the guise of “no cost expansions”, namely a bylaw clerk, a parks co-ordinator, & a deputy fire chief which makes 13 newbies. Let’s not forget the storm water fee that was taken out of the operating budget but will add 1% on top of any visible tax increase. It has been acknowledged that this is just the first grab of funds for storm water. Only 3 members of council voted against the budget that included a 1% levy composed of a 1/2 % for infrastructure & 1/2 % for buildings such as a library and south end rec centre. What is the likelihood that the building levy will turn into a boondoggle for social engineering wants for ilk like the 8 progressives? Also, watch the levy increase from the 1% amount. Recall that, surprise, no member of council campaigned for a levy of any type of levy, Ticked off? Call members of council at home at 2 am to vent & to let them know your displeasure.The shell game of shuffling costs around continues. Remember, in any shell game there has to be a con artist & marks. Guess to which role taxpayers are assigned?
    The only thing missing from the budget was a proctologist to force the cost up taxpayers butts!!

  5. geo

    Daycare rates are going up at triple the rate of inflation this year and its a national crisis. My property taxes have been going up at triple the rate of inflation for a decade and its a privilege???
    The time for change is long, long overdue!

  6. guelphspeaks reader

    Amid all the cheering, declarations of bravery and privilege of paying taxes, Canadian municipalities are pushing hard for increased ability to implement, and removal of provincial oversight and approval on, “new revenue tools”.
    In Guelph, there is no corresponding zest to reduce costs or overhead.
    And further, there is an apparent blindness to the fact that not all ratepayers are created equal.
    Some barely get by, while others make millions. Some have a combined household income of 50K, some are single making 200K. One may be doing fine one year and get laid off, or become sick the next.
    How is it, as the gap between rich and poor continues to grow, that there is no equity in these new taxes, levies, and fees, of which, if this week’s joint letter by big city mayors is any indication, we are seeing just the beginning?
    It is time for municipal taxes and charges to be indexed to income.
    Why is there silence on this? What happened to Canada being a social democracy?
    Hearing councillors advocate homeowners take out second mortgages and loans if they can;t afford the new playing field is chilling.
    Reading a so-called “progressive” councillor declare in the media that Guelph is not a place for anyone wanting low taxes is – and should be – frightening.

    • Brent

      The Farbridge “PROGRESSIVES” have been emboldened by a Mayor who preached one thing during the election to secure votes and now can be hardly be distinguished from his predecessor. No wonder people don’t bother voting anymore. Guthrie should be ashamed of himself…he has unwittingly undermined democracy.

  7. bostoncollie

    Mark MacKinnon knocked on my door while campaigning last election. We spoke for a few minutes. Among the topics we discussed was Urbacon and how people were not happy about the waste at City Hall. I know we certainly did not discuss a extra 1% levy/tax for 10 years. I hope we get a better roster of candidates to choose from next election. Would Mr. Fung have any interest?

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