Tag Archives: Taxes

The Letter Box

How Guelph fleeces the taxpayer

Dear Editor:

If you spend too much time on a merry-go-round the dizzying combination of vertical motion of riding the white charger and the rotating motion of the ride, not only do you get dizzy but you also lose focus on reality. This seems to be the only explanation of recent moves by city staff in presenting two reports to council. The reports, which pertain to a 2% levy to fund infrastructure and a move to fund storm water management by a user fee, both have more money being sucked from the taxpayer’s wallet.

The first report supports the imposition of a 2% levy for infrastructure funding that will be folded into the base property tax each year and compound for 10 years. Such compounding of a 2% levy yields 21.9% in the tenth year. Thus, if you have a current property tax of $5,000, in year ten you will be paying an extra $1095 as well as having paid the yearly compounded increments since year one.

This is in addition to the annual property tax increases over that period, which also roll into the base and compound. Thus with a 3% annual tax increase (for 2016 it is 2.99%) and the 2% levy, over 10 years that 5% annual increase compounds to a 63% increase, which on a $5,000 current assessment is a $3,144 increase to a total of $8,144, in addition to the yearly compounded increases since year one.

The second report recommends changing funding of storm water management from the current property tax supported method to a user fee regime. There are 2 problem areas with this concept that will adversely impact the taxpayers. First, this program requires the building of a bureaucracy to administer it.

Already, the city has too many Full-Time Employees (FTE) for its size, with the rate of growth of FTE’s repeatedly outstripping the growth of population.

Secondly, there is no mechanism in the annual budgeting process to ensure that the portion of the annual tax currently allocated for storm water management is not filled by frivolous tax and spend city staff foisting some dubious new “want” on a gullible council.

The perceived need for these two new assaults on taxpayer wallets is clearly due to the ongoing incompetence of the previous councils and city staff over the past 15 years to properly fund these infrastructure areas.

Glen N. Tolhurst

Guelph

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Guelph’s golden goose is already cooked

If you believe what Mayor Karen Farbridge says about Guelph’s stature as a great city admired across the country, don’t look further than the books of the city. In honesty, only the accounting firm of Deloitte and Touche gets to examine the books along with a high-powered packet of senior staff managers.

Close your eyes and get ready for the annual shell game of staff presenting a 5.6 percent tax increase knowing full well that Council will reduce it.

This year’s target of council is the old reliable 3 per cent increase. They do it every year because they can get away with it. Don’t let the taxpayers get too restless is the name of the controlling majority of Council’s game.

Since Karen Farbridge became Mayor, every budget tax increase has exceeded the cost of living inflation index by some 1.5 per cent. Chump change you say? Add it up over five years and the exponential cost is staggering.

Do you believe that tax increases since 2006 amount to more than 19 per cent over five years? Do you know that most residential tax rates in the City of Toronto are lower than in Guelph?

Why can’t staff bring in a budget that reduces city tax rates for change?

For two years the downward spiral of managing city finances has accelerated to the point where debt exceeds the Council-imposed limit; taxes are among the highest of any similar-sized city in the country and the city is unable to retain a professional chief financial officer to run the show.

Meanwhile the infrastructure of the city has been chaotic for almost four years. Millions has been spent on major arterial streets being narrowed, bike lanes, a time clock in the Sleeman Centre, the ice rink/water feature in front of City Hall, and replacement of aging water and sewer facilities.

Good stuff the citizen’s may say. A little sacrifice will only makes the city more livable … but for whom?

The latest staff screwball scheme to raise capital is to sell the streetlights to Guelph Hydro for $7 million. Problem! The city owns Guelph Hydro. Isn’t this a thinly disguised way to overcome the city’s debt crisis by giving to one pot and taking from the other? Note that it was Karen Farbridge who promoted selling Guelph Hydro two years ago. The people and a majority of Council axed that idea.

The Farbridge administration is gasping for air and not without reason. Complicit in all this is a failure to level with the taxpayers and tell the staff to get real. We have already sold the golden goose and it’s time for the staff to cut costs.

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Do Guelph’s high taxes and debt create good paying jobs?

With interest the unemployment rate in Guelph is the lowest in the country (4.1 per cent). The source is Statistics Canada. An unemployment rate in Canada of 5 per cent is considered full employment by the federal government.

Is Guelph a Mecca for well paying jobs or is the figure fudged to create a false atmosphere of employment security?

Let’s drill down and examine the facts. Guelph is a civil service town. When you lump in the estimated 4,500 employees who are serving the public, it skews the real number of those who work in the private sector.

Public sector jobs are secured by contract and Guelph’s beleaguered taxpayers are on the hook for paying their salary packages. Why are taxpayers “beleaguered”?  With one of the highest municipal tax rates in Ontario, and the third highest debt per capita, the body of taxpayers is carrying an unfair load in terms of compensating those public sector employees. It’s basic math.

The problem is that the private employers cannot match the benefits packages enjoyed by those chewing on the public purse. Take the city hall employees now numbering more than 1,400. They receive 24 (count ‘em) benefits that any worker in Walmart or Linamar would dream to have. Paid parking comes to mind.

Who are these public sector employees? Let’s start with the university, the provincial government, the federal government, city staff, police, firemen, EMS, teachers, administrators, librarians and curators.

Often overlooked is the decline of single income families in which the partners must both work to make ends meet.

If anyone wonders why the disparity of wages and benefits between the public sector and private sector has widened in Canada then one does not have to look further than the City of Guelph.

While the Mayor and Chamber of Commerce President pat themselves on the back about job creation in the city, you can now see where and what kind of jobs are being created.

There is an increase in retail employment, small business start-ups and low-paying health and elderly care jobs. These are mostly minimum wage jobs going to women. There is no union to protect their interests. They are exposed to the marketplace.

The mayor extols the creation of technical and information development jobs, but the statement rings hollow.

Only an aggressive private development program can create new opportunities outside the  “private sector shield” that exists in Guelph. There has been a failure to promote the Hanlon Business Park to promote innovation and development for the electronic age. It is an example of the administration’s dismal record of boosting job creation to create well-paying jobs in the private sector.

The city was severely criticized for making it difficult for business to establish. The Mayor says now that has changed.

Perhaps they should look at how commercial development in the east end of the city has been neglected for five years. There is no commercial hub promised five years ago to offer residents the opportunity to shop without having to drive to Eramosa and Stevenson, the closest commercial hub.

Peter Cartwright, the senior development manager at City Hall, has concentrated on development of commercial projects in the south end of the city. Maybe he should get out of his office and drive over to see the burgeoning residential development on the east side of the city.

The Quarrie Council recognized the need for commercial nodes to serve in the new growing areas of the city. The majority on the Farbridge council has ignored the need for a commercial hub in the east end of the city.

Let’s not hear any more statements from the Mayor and Chamber President Lloyd Longfield about Guelph’s low unemployment rate being great news.

Pay more attention to the quality of those jobs.

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