By Gerry Barker
April 10, 2017
If you read the story about our taxes going up again this year in the local weekly, you wouldn’t know up from down. That’s when a rewrite of a city press release and an attempt to turn it into English happens.
Bottom line, homeowner’s property taxes under the Guthrie administration have risen 10.56 per cent since his election.
It’s an astounding figure when considering that the senior staff has been in total disarray since Mayor Guthrie took over, but not necessarily because of him. The residue of millions in losses land mismanagement left by his predecessor hangs over him like a cloud burst waiting to happen.
He has tried to work with council but the majority of Councillors, James Gordon, June Hofland, Phil Allt, Mike Salisbury, Leanne Piper, Karl Wettstein and Cathy Downer, have obstructed, denied and pushed the agenda of the previous administration.
It’s as if there never was an election
Then we have Ward four Coun. Mike Salisbury, pontificating that the Mayor has failed to be a leader because he has not been collegial with council. Goodness knows, Mayor Guthrie has tried only to be thwarted when the suggestion of change or reform surfaces. Well, you have to understand the source of the Salisbury whining spectacle.
So, now the new property tax increase is 3.61 due to the impact of assessment by the Municipal Provincial Assessment Corporation (MPAC), an independent body set up by the provincial government to conduct informed and fair assessments of properties across Ontario.
But in most cases, MPAC does what I call, a drive-by calculation based on their own formula and process. In recent years, it has been complicated by a four-year freeze on assessments by the former McGuinty government in the wake of the 2008 global economic crisis.
Starting in 2014, MPAC resumed raising the assessment on a pre-set formula basis with modest increases for four years.
I fail to understand why this 2017 assessment by MPAC was not included during the budget preparation last fall and approved in December with only three councillors voting against the budget. What did they know that the other councillors and staff did not? We received our annual MPAC notice that showed the assessment increase on our property for four years including 2017.
It is important to understand the impact of assessment increase. First of all, they are mandatory. The city takes the revised assessment information, and using the mill rate determines the added cost to property taxpayers. This process occurs during the annual budget deliberations.
What happened to the two-per cent special property tax levy?
The local weekly made reference to the one per cent special levy on property taxes although council approved a two per cent levy on property taxes in the 2017 budget. Also, how did the city determine the average price of a home in Guelph is $333,877? The story claimed that taxes on that average value would go up by $86.04 or 2.61 per cent. That included the one per cent property tax levy for infrastructure maintenance bringing the increase to 3.61 per cent.
And you’re confused?
Didn’t council approve a two per cent property tax levy for 2017? Remember that Coun. Mark MacKinnon moved to add another one per cent tax levy for “City Buildings” that was approved by council and would provide $2.23 million per year for the next five years?
Must have been a typo.
The approved property tax levies, each aimed at specific areas requiring capital spending, just added a $4.46 million extra burden on homeowners. The irony is Coun. MacKinnon has stated that people should be willing to pay taxes for the services they receive. He theorizes that because the value of their home increases, they could refinance through a new or second mortgage or reverse mortgage in order to pay their taxes.
Is the council majority too subjective, ignorant or willful?
This is the kind of beliefs that MacKinnon epitomizes about the majority of his colleagues on council. They don’t care about the impact of their authoritative policies on the very people who elected them. They have the power to access the public ATM machine at will without recourse. This fall the 2018 budget will be prepared.
It is now necessary to hire a Chief Fiancial Officer with the proper financial accreditation and experience. If any department in the city needs capable manage,ent, it’s Finance.
Here are some other examples of decisions made by the majority of council in the past seven years:
Start with the $23 million increased cost of the new City Hall project; the $26.6 million loss by Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. operation; the inflated cost of the downtown police headquarters of $34 million; employment costs that have been growing exponentially; the retirement settlement amounts paid to former senior managers who have left the city, either forcefully or resigning; the high costs of living in Guelph with electricity, water, taxes, user fees, among the highest in the province; the high cost of managing our waste reported to be the highest among peer group of cities; the costs of overhead that the administration refuses to address and ignores.
These are examples deserving of an indictment of sheer malfeasance mixed with self-serving stupidity.
Stopping Online voting, a precursor of losing an election
One final example: The seven members of council voted recently to cancel electronic voting in the 2018 civic election after listening to delegates and not accepting the staff recommendation to extend the service.
The decision was made during a council committee meeting and will be confirmed or rejected April 24 by council.
Go figure! Every one voting to reject electronoc voting, benefited from this type of voting when they ran successfully in 2014 when some 13,000 citizens used the system.
In my view, this bloc of councillors, are motivated by fear, fear of losing after what happened in 2014.
If this majority continues to oppose Online voting, they will lose in 2018.
If they support the sale/merger of Guelph Hydro, they will lose.
If they continue to raise taxes at rates similar to the past three years, they’ll lose.
If they continue to insult the Mayor, they’ll lose.