Tag Archives: University of Guelph

This U of G professor believes the 2020 Guelph Police budget increase of 9.81 per cent outweighs the need

By Gerry Barker

November 4, 2019

Opinion

Dr. Rene Van Acker, dean of the Ontario Agriculture College, part of the University of Guelph is urging people to protest this increase requested by the Guelph Police Services Board.

It seems to be a clash between the academic ivory towers and the 24/7 protection and services of our community.

The professor obviously has never performed shift work, carried a gun, investigated fatal collisions and major criminal occurrences, attended domestic violence calls, and responded quickly to cases that engage citizens.

In short, this is a city with a university sitting in the middle. Often, Guelph police are called for support to control student behaviour on and off campus.

Think weekend’s downtown, homecoming, St. Patrick’s Day, and political protests.

It seems stranger to read the professor’s letter to the editor in which he refers to the proposed 2020 police budget as “outweighing the need.”

How would Dr. van Aker know the details of police operations to make such a statement?

He ignores the night and day risks that our police endure on a routine shift. He criticizes the Mayor that he “senses” that people want a professional and responsive police service, night or day. And Mayor Guthrie should know because he sits on the Police Services Board along with Coun. Christine Billings.

So the unsubstantiated complaints from Van Aker over the 2020 police budget rings hollow because he does not identify the needs of the police services.

The Ontario Sunshine List shows that three times in the past six years, Van Acker has received more than a 7 per cent salary increase. It was topped off in 2018 with an increase of 7.69 per cent earning a yearly salary of $235,000 plus benefits.

Dr. Van Aker should look beyond the police services budget and consider all the other services that citizens pay for, including the public safety personnel who are engaged around the clock.

The city administration must raise sufficient revenue to pay for the scores of public services plus the cost of primary and secondary boards of education. One can only imagine the operating costs of those institutions that function 10 months of the year.

The U of G pays $1,600,000 per year in lieu of property taxes. The payment is based on the number of registered students, currently estimated at 22,000. This was a deal granted in 1987 to public post-secondary institutions. The rate is still fixed at $75 and has not changed since.

Lets compare the impact of inflation that this deal has ignored for more than 32 years. All costs have increased. Are your property taxes fixed for 32 years? Has the university increased tuition and student fees and land leases in which it derives income?

Keep in mind that the chief revenue sources of the city are property taxes and user fees.

Our property taxes have more than doubled in the 16 years we have lived in Guelph. It is this property tax deal with the University and Conestoga Community College that remains fixed and only increases when additional students enroll.

About Guelph Transit

Students are required to pay $75 per semester for bus passes. It’s ironic that this mandatory contribution to access public transit is twice what the University of Guelph pays the city in lieu of property taxes.

This is particularly advantageous to the university because it is, we believe, to be the largest landowner in the city. The management over the years has leased its land to a variety of commercial and residential developments.

Seeing that these developments are on University lands, does this sweetheart deal extend to those leased properties as well?

In the 32 years of this arrangement, the city has grown, requiring citizens to pay for the need for increased city services. That is a subsidy that is unfair and needs revision.

Unfortunately, this would have to be a decision by the provincial government. It involves more than 600 post-secondary institutions in the province.

Our representative in the Ontario Legislature is Mike Schreiner, Ontario leader of the Green Party, a party of one.

This affects a number of municipalities and an independent committee of mayors and chief Financial Officers need to negotiate with the government to update the property tax arrangement.

It will be a daunting task and predictably the University of Guelph will oppose changes to any proposal that will increase their property tax commitment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Does the Guelph administration keep on giving to the University of Guelph?

By Gerry Barker

February 4, 2019

Opinion

Recently, by an 8 to 4 vote council exempted the University of Guelph of paying development charges for its never-ending expansion of facilities.

That’s a great deal by any standard.

But let’s try to understand just what the city receives from the University to maintain taxpayer-supported costs including infrastructure, transportation, public safety, hospital and medical services and city administration.

City taxpayers pay for all of these categories.

Don O’Leary, the University’s Vice President of finance, administration and risk, admitted that he University is paying $1.6 million in lieu of property taxes. This special deal, created the province in 1987, is called the bed-tax.

Each post secondary institution in the province multiplies the number of students attending by $75. That number remains the same today, some 36 years later. There is no allowance for inflation or the effect on city taxpayers in terms of operational costs and population growth of the city.

The city’s operating and capital spending costs are estimated to be 395 per cent compounded, at an average of three per cent per year since the introduction of the plan.

When comparing the property tax rate proposed by the city of Toronto was 2.55 per cent. Yes there will be folks in Guelph who will dispute the fact that Guelph’s 3.93 per cent property tax rate is not valid. It’s relative because size is not what matter.

It’s how to reduce overhead and spending. By practicing more accurate forecasting managing within our means and working to increase revenues. It is not at the expense of property taxpayers. That well has been tapped too often.

But the University of Guelph owns possibly the largest total tract of urban land among the post secondary schools in the province, much of it yet to be developed.

The U of G property contains a larger portion of leased land including a multi-use subdivision known as the Arboretum. In addition, much of the commercial and offices along Stone Road pay a land lease charge to the University that owns the land. Over the years this has been a financial gold mine for the University that grows every year. Is it an increasing real estate bonanza including the Stone Road Mall?

So why are the citizens financing this in perpetuity?

Moreover, while the property tax rate has only dipped twice below three per cent per year in 9 years, The University’s contribution has remained at $75 per student.

Is this part of the $800 million economic contribution to the City of Guelph claimed by University VP O’Leary? Particularly when it is obvious that the University is in the real estate business and receives grants from the province.

Yet city council voted to continue exempting the institution from development fees for another five years.

The council vote was 8 to 4 with Coun. Dan Gibson absent. Breaking it down, voting for this largess was Mayor Guthrie, Counillors James Gordon, Phil Allt, June Hofland, Dominique O’Rourke, Mark MacKinnon, Cathy Downer and Leanne Piper. Voting against the motion were Councillors Bob Bell, Christine Billings, Rodrigo Goller and Mike Salisbury.

One of those councillors voting for the development fee exemption was Leanne Piper who is employed by the University. She should have recused herself as well as any other councillor working or associated with the University.

Who benefits from this economic generator?

. Don O’Leary addressed what the University of Guelph brings to the city. “The University is a significant economic generator and allows the economy to thrive,” he said, adding that the school supports approximately 12,000 local jobs and brings nearly $800 million worth of economic activity to the city every year.

Those economic numbers came from a University produced brochure that lacked the data source of the $800 million that the institution claims brings to the city. Further, that figure of 12,000 staff, according to the brochure, includes staff at a Toronto campus that links Humber College and another campus in South Western Ontario.

What that brochure failed to mention was the endowment fund that the University has reported to be more than $100 million. That represents 25 per cent of the entire annual city budgets.

Then the City’s General manager of Finance and Treasurer, Tara Baker, reported to councillors that Guelph could expect to see $50 million in the next decade in tax-supported growth costs. However, the study found a shortfall of $1.25 million this year that will need to be added to the capital budget, approved by council Jan. 30.

That’s not a rounding adjustment, based on the $50 million it is anticipated to be spent by taxpayers over the next ten years; that works out to $5 million a year. This current shortfall represents 25 per cent that must be added to the capital budget.

But where is the University of Guelph’s contribution to support the taxpayer’s responsibility to pay for those services, the cost of which increases exponentially every year? Oh, they don’t because council voted to exempt the University from paying property taxes and development fees.

Guelph Transit revenue threatened

Breaking news! We have learned that the Ford Government is considering allowing students to opt out of the obligatory transit pass payment each semester.

This comes when Guelph Transit announced that 50 per cent of its passenger traffic is by students, chiefly from the University of Guelph.

If this occurs, transit officials are concerned it will hit the bottom line of operating costs. The shortfall will affect the property taxpayers, as they will have to pick-up the difference.

For the record, the city already subsidizes Guelph Transit by more than $15 million annually. In other words, this service is built for the students and it is an inefficient and costly operation that is used by a minority of residents. If the Ford proposal passes, then Guelph Transit must reduce services and operating overhead.

Guelph is now Discount City

Did I tell you about the other discounts the city gives to the University?

Up to now, the city has granted a 25 per cent reduction of development fees initiated for the University. Staff reported that the full exemption will apply when it comes to community public services such as libraries, recreation, parks, and infrastructure.

The other big discount is the bed tax deal in lieu of property taxes that gives the University a huge break in land taxes. The city will argue that deal is mandated by the province. But not adjusted for 36 years?

I still maintain that the relationship between the city and the University needs a review and sharing of taxpayer costs that support the institution on a daily basis, 24-7.

There is concern that increasing development fees will immediately impact the development industry, thereby increasing housing prices and people looking elsewhere. We have already experienced developers leaving Guelph due to the rigid and unfair treatment by city officials during the eight years of the Farbridge administration.

The Mayor ran in 2014 to abolish the “Guelph Factor” that affected approval times of development proposals.

It appears the ‘Guelph Factor’ is alive and well and being just as impossible and demanding by planning and engineering staff as ever. It still takes two and three years to process a development plan.

It is the Jonah of Guelph that failed to increase commercial and industrial assessment for 12 years. It would have alleviated the pressure on residential properties. Those properties, the ATM machine of City public revenues, that have had to support sacred institutions, costly, failed environmental schemes and still, no downtown library, no south end recreation centre or adequate parking downtown.

Even the staff receives a convenience discount

Correction: city hall staffers will mostly occupy the $22 million Wilson Street Parkade, now under construction. The location is just too convenient.

We have just re-elected the same city council with only two changes. The same group that has driven up taxes and user fees and is proposing another 3.93 per cent

Increase this year in property taxes.

Remember? Mayor Guthrie promising to keep property tax increases at the same rate as the Consumer Price Index. That rate in 2014 was 1.11 per cent. In the intervening years, it has not increased by more than 2.55 per cent.

I regret Mr. Mayor, most of the Guelph electorate felt you had great promise and twice have elected you. Sorry, but you folded like a cheap suit when you went along with a 3.96 per cent property tax increase in your first budget in 2015.

And now with your second post election budget, the proposed property tax increase for 2019 is 3.93 per cen if approved by council.

Déjà vu or is it just a convenient opportunity?

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Mr. Ford: It’s time to rewrite the University property tax deal

By Gerry Barker

November 1, 2018

Exclusive – Opinion

Before I am accused of insufferable whining, here are some examples of jug-headed decisions made by the current council in the past four years.

My favourite is about the tax on cats. Council taxes dogs, chicken coops, property,  waste removal, water, storm water, developers, businesses and cats.

If it moves, tax it

Council does not tax nuisances such as the growing urban flock of Canada Geese, Bicycle riders and their gear. Throw in the user fees that in 2017 the city received $105,872,000 in user fees alone. That was an increase of $9,744 million over 2016.

The biggest under taxed institution in the city is the University of Guelph. The city’s largest landowner and concentrated education complex is complete with buildings to house first year and graduate students, ultra new classroom facilities, football stadium and hockey arena.

It has a student population of 22,000 from September to April.

Now here’s the sweetheart property deal enjoyed by the University.

City residents and taxpayers subsidize the University population through paying for emergency services –police, fire and EMS as requested by University officials. No charge.

Citizens also subsidize Guelph Transit, spending $65,259 million that includes supplying extra services to accommodate students during the roughly eight months stay in Guelph. Citizens have subsidized an estimated $15 million annually to support Guelph Transit.

What happened to equal partnership?

More recently was the University’s Homecoming weekend that city taxpayers paid to control the excessive drinking, abuse of property and treatment at medical clinics. The Guelph Police Services had to pay for extra officers to keep the peace and the cost to city taxpayers’’ was a reported $63,000.

Remember, your taxes are paying for police and other public services for homecoming and St.Patrick’s Day celebrations by thousands of students, alumni and non-students looking for a party.

It is obvious that the University Police cannot control what is happening in their precinct and requested assistance from Guelph Police Services. Why not? Doesn’t cost the University anything and it takes their cops off the hook.

Now you might say this is a penny-ante complaint but when coupled with St. Patrick’s Day revelry, Guelph police are again beefed up to maintain order. It seems a high price to pay by Guelph citizens who are not involved.

Here’s some background

Celebrating the annual homecoming weekend is a string of five universities ranging from Hamilton to London, all celebrating on different weekends. The top brass at each institution agreed to hold their homecoming on different weekends starting usually at McMaster in Hamilton, Guelph, Laurier in Kitchener, University of Waterloo and University of Western Ontario in London.

The result is a moving weekend party as students bounce from one homecoming to the next. An example was this year when Guelph had its homecoming party and football game, two weeks later Western held its homecoming and the police could barely handle the celebrants in which the affair degenerated in a near riot. There is ample evidence that same drinking and flouting the law occurred at each institution.

It would appear that students and non-students move each weekend to another University homecoming. Why is this occurring? It’s because it means money to the Institutions.

Organized alumni tours encourage donation to the University’s endowment fund or they finance support of new building or courses.

. Since 1987, the $75 payment, in lieu of property taxes, has not changed or indexed to the Cost of Living Index (CPI).

How about your property taxes?

Are you paying property taxes during that time that never increased annually? Of course not. In our case; the annual increase for 15 years has averaged 3.18 per cent. Two things affect your property taxes, inflation and compounding. All I can say is that our property taxes have more than doubled in 15 years. That’s compounding for you.

Property taxes contribute, on average, 80 per cent of city revenues. The rest comes from grants, the gas tax rebate, investment interest and user fees including development charges and impost fees.

It’s easy to see that the University is paying an estimated $1.8 million annually in lieu of property taxes and the city taxpayers must cover 80 per cent of the annual city budget. The total revenue from property taxes for 2017 (the latest financial report) was $233,024 million. That figure includes the $1.8 million received from the University of Guelph’s holdings.

The UofG property tax bill represents 0.00772 per cent of the total paid by citizens. The largest landowner and major post secondary organization’s property tax bill is just not paying its fair share operating in Guelph. Not only that, each year the University’s tax portion of Guelph’s cost of operating actually shrinks.

Translation: They are paying proportionately less than all the city property owners conytribute 3.18 per cent annual increase in property taxes.

A law that’s unfair and stupid

The 2017 operational taxed increase of $8,936 million over 2016. That increase did not include any contribution from the University. So each year the City of Guelph property taxes increase, on average 3.18 per cent, but the University has not increased its property tax payment for 41 years.

That’s thanks to a dated and stupid provincial law that never considered the effect of inflation, passed by the provincial Liberal government in 1987. The deal chiefly protected the province’s growing post secondary schools from paying appropriate property taxes.

By sheer accident, the University of Guelph, over the years, became a huge beneficiary because it owns thousands of acres inherited from the former Agriculture College, before it was granted University status.

Over the years as the city grew, certain parts of those lands, particularly along Stone Road, became cash cows as the University property was leased back to commercial retailers and housing developers. At the same time, the city had to install infrastructure including roads, water and sewer lines plus a fire station. Oh! I forgot the $2 million spent on bike lanes.

This land lease income became a great opportunity to expand the University with new buildings, facilities courses and faculties. However, it brought unintended costs to the city to service the needs of the expanding university. The property tax deal denied the city’s right to collect higher property taxes. Because there was no assessment established of the University properties by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation. There was no need the city was prevented due to the fixed rate payment in lieu of property taxes established by the provincial government.

The effect of this property tax loophole was that municipalities were forced to increase its costs to improve infrastructure, emergency services, transit, plus many other services over the years as the city and student population grew.

The University or Conestoga Community College cannot be blamed for this situation. The blame falls directly on successive provincial governments that ignored the consequences for more than 41 years, of this off-loading of the costs that many growing cities are facing in relation to blooming post secondary institutions.

The exponential financial property tax load has fallen on taxpayers and citizens.

Well, the UofG recently released a report showing the economic benefits the institution brings to Guelph and Wellington County. Most of that benefit is focused on businesses through increased sales and services but does not trickle down to the taxpayer who is paying most of the bills. It’s another version of trickle down economics that doesn’t work.

It has been suggested that any increase in the so-called student “bed tax” will only be passed through to the students and families.

Here’s the Bottom Line:

The estimate value of the Univisity of Guelph today, in terms of assessment including buildings and land, internal infrastructure, residential structures, laboratories, sports facilities and a number of other important assets of the corporate complex are estimated to be more that $5 billion.

The University’sconomic statement said itemploys 12,000, not all located in Guelph. This, it claimed, is major contributor to job creation. Again they don’t all live in the city.

The City of Guelph with a population of 131,000, in the 2017 consolidated financial statement shows the city having total assets of $1,186,081,000.

This is a challenge that needs the municipalities affected by this unfair arrangement to call on the government to change it.

 

 

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Glossy magazine Vital Signs takes a statistical peek at us and ignores key financial data

By Gerry Barker

October 1, 2918

With a civic election just three weeks away a consortium of the University of Guelph, the Guelph Community Foundation and the Oaktree project funded by the Mactaggert family, has produced a book of numbers that are interesting but missing the real numbers.

The real numbers? They are the financial data of the two municipalities that are measured and their ability to meet the demands of the people, the province, plus controlling debt and partnership obligations.

What puzzles me most is, what is the objective here? The data includes percentages of the two municipalities in area including crime, trees planted, waste diversion, mental health stats, obesity, median household income and unemployment stats, to name a few of the plethora of data. In fact some of the data was dated, it was taken more than four to five e years ago.

Who is the audience for this? Will it be delivered to all households in both municipalities?

I must say it is a interesting effort to inform people who love statistics. What it fails to do is interpret the data in relationship to today’s community needs and costs. Nowhere does it mention property tax rates that represent the largest portion of revenue to the municipality.

What about the $23 million spent on new City Hale over-budget?

Missing are the facts of mismanagement in Guelph’s case that has cost the city many millions of dollars.

It is a classic academic social study that has little relevance to those earning a living and able to afford living in Guelph. For 12 years this has charged annually, on average, increasing property taxes by more than three per cent. Just two years ago, Guelph council imposed a two per cent special levy on property taxpayers to pay for neglected infrastructure needs.

City staff estimated the infrastructure renovation and replacement costs to be more than $400 million.

But to everyone’s surprise, half of that levy was spent on “city buildings.” It went toward building a new $63 million south end recreation centre. There is no denying that such a project is needed but when the Chief Administrative Officer, Derrick Thomson, says the ten-year capital spending budget is $170 million in the hole, you won’t read about that in Vital Signs.

Then Mayor Guthrie announces that the city is getting a new downtown library. Here’s the problem. The mayor says the city has entered a Public Private Partnership (3P) agreement with an Ottawa developer. The library is part of an estimated $350 million project to redevelop the downtown Baker Street parking lot. Here’s the hitch: The shovels will not go into the ground until 2024. It will take four to five years to complete the job.

Still to be negotiated the city’s share of the 3P deal. Do you think this project is a Vital Sign? Did not read anything about that in the magazine.

That construction time frame is based on the renovation of the downtown police headquarters that is now entering year five and is still not complete. Nor do we know what the end cost will be on the $34 million project approved in August 2014

So the friends of the library should tone down the happy talk volume. It is difficult to figure out why this massive project makes sense when the city could build a new downtown library for $53 million.

The city building projects in the past 12 years have been over-priced and under- performing.

So the feel good publication Vital Signs omits the key element of accountability and transparency. Too much city business is done in closed sessions. In the first two years of Mr. Guthrie’s leadership there were 82 closed session meetings conducted by council.

The Mayor was handed a rock concering the GMHI debacle

Mayor Guthrie inherited a monumental mess concerning the operation of Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc involving the Distruct Energy plans. That operation, headed by the former mayor, has cost the city millions and is still running a deficit of $17 million as of 2016. It is estimated that current deficit may exceed $20 million

In 2017 the Mayor announced the merger of Guelph Hydro and Electra Inc. A majority of council approved the deal December 13, 2017. The Ontario Energy Board has yet to approve the merger that will turn over a going, profitable and successful city-owned power distribution system in exchange for a tiny 4.63 per cent of Alectra Utilities profits. Did I mention it only shares, along with other municipalities connected to Alectra, 60 per cent of those Alectra profits?

As I have said, Vital Signs is a shotgun example of a lot of data that does not directly affect the citizens of Guelph and Wellington County. Much of it is history and in many cases not applicable to the needs of today’s populations.

While the Guelph Community Foundation and the Mactaggert family had good intentions, the publication missed the mark of not including the financial impact on the people that pay the bills.

Again I ask the question: Who was the target audience? What is the expectation of benefits to the people who live in these two communities?

Is this the purpose of the Guelph Community Foundation, an organization I personally trust and believe?

I would describe Vital Signs as a “justification” publication sponsored by the University of Guelph. Lately there has been a concentrated campaign by the University to justify its economic impact on the City of Guelph.

In my opinion, this signals an attempt to derail a growing demand to replace the property tax in lieu present system, to have the institution pay its fair share of property taxes. Statements have been made that any increase would be passed through to the students.

This is a huge corporation that owns millions in properties and rents back to users.

At the same time it is reported that the University’s endowment fund is worth some $100 million.

The result is the property taxpayers are subsidizing the University supplyong services the cost of which go far beyond the estimated $1.7 million the city received in lieu of property taxes.

The property tax deal has not changed in 31 years, Here’s how it works: For every student attending the university, it pays $75 in lieu of property taxes. Considering the holdings of the University of Guelph that has to be the bargain of the century.

You won’t read about that statistic in Vital Signs.

BREAKING NEWS!

guelphtomorrow.ca

The new website guelphtomorrow.ca is now live on the web. It concentrates on commentary and news about the civic election campaign and the players. It’s different and stresses informing citizens and promoting public participation including voting October 22. Enjoy!

 

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A contrarian view of the University of Guelph’s economic impact on our city

By Gerry Barker

June 18, 2018

Now let’s state clearly that the U of G is an important presence in the life of our city.

An economic impact study, commissioned by the university, reports a staff of some 12,000 employees. It appears to be the largest employer in town with 30,000 students located in three campuses – Guelph, the main campus, with an estimated 21,000 students. The remaining students are located in Toronto and Ridgetown.

The accounting firm KPMG produced the study revealing that $1.6 billion was injected into the Guelph regional economy. Presumably this contribution was spread through the three campuses of the university on a prorate basis.

The report does not break out the benefit specifically to the City of Guelph.

The first question one should ask is why is the university paying mega bucks attempting to prove its contribution to the economy of our city?

It reports that the students contribute some $370 million each year, chiefly within eight months with the greater majority attend the Guelph campus. The money is spent on living expenses and the study claims their presence employs some 5,000 local jobs. Again it is unclear if this include police, fire and EMS; transit workers; waste management personnel; city administration staff and public operations employees. Not counting the emergency services employees the city staff is composed of 2,200 Full-time Equivalent Employee (FTE) workers.

Without this support of Guelph taxpayers and city services, the University could not function.

The citizens of Guelph pay all their staff salaries and benefits through property taxes and user fees. Some 80 per cent of those costs are from the collection of property taxes.

Presuming the U of G is the largest landowner in the city, with an estimated 600 acres leased to a variety of commercial businesses, office enterprises and residential, what is its contribution to the city property tax budget?

Using the number of students in the KPMG study, the university’s obligation paying property taxes is a special system introduced in 1987 that permits a “bed tax” of $75 per student in lieu of properties based on assessment. Unlike us whose property taxes are reset annually based on council’s budget and adjustments in assessments.

This “bed tax” rate has not changed since introduced 31 years ago. I won’t ask the embarrassing questions about inflation, that affects all city citizens.

Based on a student population of 21,000, the University of Guelph pays $1,575,000 a year in lieu of property taxes based on the number of students.

Let’s compare this with what citizens pay for services

Using an estimated average tax bill of $6,000 times 50,000 on the city tax bill register that includes industrial and commercial properties; the city is receiving some $300,000,000 in property taxes.

But here’s the kicker. That estimate has grown every year since 2007 by some 3.5 per cent exponentially. When the residential industrial ratio is factored (84 per cent residential versus 16 per industrial), the residential property owners are subsidizing, by far, the tiny university’s property tax obligation.

The university enjoys the city services provided by the city with not having the “bed tax” indexed for 31 years.

Of course it’s not fair. And who really pays that “bed tax?” It’s the students seeing it rolled into their tuition costs.

Now this same $75 per student in lieu of property tax is applicable to every university and community college in Ontario.

It is almost impossible to calculate or comprehend how the residents in all those communities throughout the province are caught in this totally unfair situation.

It’s easy to calculate is the cost to Guelph property owners that eclipses the paltry property tax contribution of the biggest landowner in the city.

While the university blows its horn about is monetary contribution to the city and surrounding area, it conveniently leaves out the costs of running a city of 131,000 with services supplied 365 days a year such as water, waste management, emergency services, electricity, pubic transit, excellent hospitals and social services.

It has to be a bargain when all you have to pay for it is $1,575,000.

In fact, with all that cash coming in from leased lands and other enterprises, three years ago it was reported some $30 million underfunded the university staff pensions fund

I didn’t read about these items in this glossy report.

Okay, the old arguments will surface about how important the relationship exists between Town and Gown. But at what price?

A property tax deal that was not even indexed for inflation for 31 years when the city grew, costs escalated and there was increased demand for basic services.

And the University also grew during that same period but is still paying the same property tax as it did 31 years ago.

It should not be forgotten that our provincial income and sales taxes subsidize the post secondary institutions.

How much does the provincial government expect the citizen in those cities and towns to subsidize the post secondary institutions through their property taxes?

The University of Guelph has a unique advantage over most other post secondary institutions. As a former Agriculture and Vetrenary College, it owned acres of land at a time when Guelph was a small town more than 65 years ago.

In Guelph, this fixed, unfair property tax subsidy grows exponentially every year on the backs of the municipal property owners.

 

 

 

 

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Liz Sandals and the Ontario Liberals ready for re-election?

By Gerry Barker

July 13, 2017

In politics and life, timing is everything and some prevarification goes a long way

The other day I received a large four-page brochure from our Liberal member of the Legislature, Liz Sandals, who represents Guelph. It was labeled “ Community Update- Spring 2017.” While this is July, I presume events were occurring so fast that the spring edition was merged into the summer version.

The only conclusion I could reach after browsing through the content was it reinforced Liz’s intention to run again in Guelph next June. Or, maybe even before if the Premier calls a snap election.

Problem is based on what? Premier Wynne’s personal poll numbers are below 20 per cent. That means more than 80 per cent of those polled would not support her, or the Liberals, in June 2018, the mandatory Election Day in Ontario.

But that’s a long way away. The Sandals brochure speaks of the Liberal promises and accomplishments while ignoring the sad record of the government.

Ms. Sandals ignores the loss of her job as Minister of Education over a revelation that she approved spending millions to some of the teacher’s unions just to attend the bargaining sessions in 2014/15. The most damaging event was Sandals’ argument that the payments were made due to extended bargaining time to cover union rep’s extra food and lodging costs in Toronto.

Then she admitted that the Liberals, while in office, had distributed millions over the years to the teacher unions as “bargaining bonuses” if that description fits.

At that point, Premier Wynne stepped in and said that the union members had to supply receipts to show the funds were spent covering the period of extended bargaining. The horse, unfortunately, was already out of the barn.

In a cabinet reshuffle, Ms. Sandals was removed as Minister of Education and assigned as president of the Provincial Treasury Board. It was a face saving move by her good friend Kathleen Wynne.

So, let’s look at Treasury President Sandals latest missile to the Guelph voters.

On page one, the lead story focuses on the 2017 provincial budget with a screaming headline that the budget is balanced!

The first one that caught my eye was the claim that Guelph had the second lowest unemployment rate in Ontario.

Ms. Sandals must know that the city she represents has one of the highest concentrations of employees paid with public money. More important, consider since Ms. Sandals’ tenure as Guelph MPP, the ratio of 84 per cent residential assessment and 16 per cent commercial/industrial assessment has been unchanged for ten years.

While it could be argued that the situation is a municipal responsibility, there have been provincial resources available to increase commercial and industrial assessment to lift the burden of taxation from homeowners.

We are still waiting.

The recent 10-year history of the city shows that property taxes and user fees have increased by more than 3.5 per cent compounded annually. It has resulted in one of the highest municipal tax rates in the province.

But there is one aggravating caveat. The University of Guelph only pays $75 per student in lieu of property taxes. In 1987, the rate was created by the Peterson Liberal government and has never changed. Today, the U of G property tax bill is some $1.7 million.

No change in the rate but increased due to the growing number of students attending the university since 1987. Translation: There has been no provision to increase the rate in the past three decades, even to match the rate of inflation.

While Guelph’s property taxes and user fees have more than tripled in the last 30 years, the university property taxes are locked in at 1987 levels. In real income, the student rate is worth about $10 today.

The university has an unusual advantage over other post-secondary institutions in the province. As a former agricultural college, it owned hundreds of acres used for crop testing and training. That was 50 years ago. Today much of those lands are leased back by the university to a variety of commercial and residential enterprises. This provides a steady cash flow unmatched by any educational institution in Ontario.

The growth of the city has encompassed much of those lands. I have never seen a financial statement of the university that is a public supported organization. The income from land rental should be revealed. For no other reason than to see if U of G property taxes reflect this additional income.

Where was the Guelph MPP to tackle this perverted 30-year property tax freeze that thrust paying part of the U of G overhead costs upon taxpayers? While most citizens are proud of their university, the cost of supporting it through growing emergency services, road and infrastructure costs, public transit, and recreational facilities are borne by the citizens. This amounts to an increase in the city overhead that has grown disproportionally with the growth of population.

Bottom line: Do the citizens of Guelph gain any benefit from this arrangement?

How the Sandal Liberals blocked a citizen’s petition to audit city finances

When citizens complained in September 2012, through a documented petition to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, she dismissed the claims. She added that the petition issues made by GrassRoots Guekph and the City of Guelph, had to jointly resolve the issue. Liz Sandals was given a copy of the petition in advance of presentation to Minister Linda Jeffery on the condition it be embargoed until the official release. The reason was to give the MPP a heads up of the content of the petition.

Somehow the embargoed petition was delivered to then Mayor Karen Farbridge.

When an elected official keeps their word that’s class. In this case, Liz Sandals had only one of three copies of the final version of the petition. I had one and a colleague had the other. But it goes further, when our organization known as GrassRoots Guelph arranged a press conference in Queen’s Park, we received no assistance from the Sandals office. Actually our group of seven was escorted from the building by three security guards. We were told we could hold our press conference on the front lawn of the Legislature. Back in Guelph, an hour later, the Farbridge team reported the incident.

In my opinion, Ms. Sandals’has complicity in this but she will never admit it. That day, she failed not only her supporters but also the entire population of the city. She was complicit in not informing the people, her constituents, who had the right to know and to petition under a provision of the Ontario Municipal Act.

More on the truth according to Ms. Sandals

Another interesting feature of her brochure was a table that preposterously claimed that Ontario’s economic growth outpaced all G7 group of countries. This is like comparing elephantine economic powers to a beetle crawling up a stalk of corn with the intent of munching on a cob or two. Talk about gilding the lily.

Gazing on the Wynne Liberal management record over the past three years, here are some of the lowlights and potential highlights:

* Stop selling part of Hydro One to private enterprise while claiming to retain control.

* Urging municipalities owning hydro distribution systems to either merge or be sold.

* Claiming to cut Ontario’s bloated high cost electricity system rates by 25 per cent for the next four years then increasing rates to pay for it.

* Failing to reform the Police Act, the Ontario Municipal Act particularly pertaining to closed-door sessions, Ontario Hospital Insurance Plan, Correctional services, hydro power generation and transmission and costs.

*Failing to stem the exponential growth of salary and benefits paid to Police and Fire employees.

* Replace the arbitration system of resolving Police and Fire union contracts.

* Why does Guelph have the hughest number of deputy fire chiefs in thr Province?

* Getting out of the booze business lowering the cost of alcoholic beverages and allowing wider and competitive sales by private enterprise.

* Failing to end the Beer Store’s foreign ownership monopoly.

* Stop creating the highest cost electricity system in the country.

* Failing to resolve the infrastructure problems facing municipalities in Ontario.

* Increasing costs of public servants with generous benefits that exceed those of private enterprises.

* Refusing to support that transportation needs of the larger cities.

* Failing to increase disability payments while raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

*  Merge the two public education systems to create efficiencies of operation and lower costs. Allow the secular schools to conduct their curriculum.

* Restore the provincial bank system to allow clients to deal electronically to conduct their businesses and invest in infrastructure.

* Allow the Provincial Bank to support small businesses and non-profit organizations.

* Reconsider plans to convert fossil-fueled vehicles to electric with regard to the economic outcomes of switching too fast.

 

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Did the Kama Sutra get it all wrong?

Posted June 8, 2013

By Gerry Barker

When the University of Guelph holds a two-day Conference on Sexuality, it goes all out. The leadoff speaker, Tristan Taormino, a U.S. expert in matters of kinky sex and other sexual mores, stated: “We’re all a bunch of perverts.”

“I’m here to tell you that no one is having normal sex,” she said. She blamed the rampant Internet pornography, sexting, erotica for women, cheaters’ dating websites and celebrity sex videos.

Whew! I didn’t know all this was going on.

I just get a minor thrill with the Cialis TV ads that warn: “If you have an erection lasting four hours, see a doctor.” I’d see one after half an hour.

My wife read the best sex-seller “50 Shades of Gray”, yawned, rolled over and went to sleep

By the way, what is normal sex? The speaker did not explain. Let me assist. Normal sex ranges from spooning, showering together and it’s over before it begins.

Renowned 50’s sex researchers Masters and Johnson sort of explained what was going on behind bedroom doors. Their studies claimed that people approached the act with enthusiasm, innovation and a certain alacrity that often defied gravity.

That was then.

Along came the pill in the 60’s and everything changed. More and more people, single married and religious, suddenly discovered having sex didn’t mean getting pregnant. Office romances suddenly bloomed and the horny age was upon us, well, most of us.

The mystery of our kink expert’s opinions is why now? Why is this generation going nuts over kinky sex and its myriad of deviation and diversity?

Sado masochism has been around since the Borgia’s; Bondage has been the stock (bad pun) and trade on many a merry medieval monk. And it was legal too!

A glass or two of wine has been known to boost the libido leading to unexpected experimentation. Almost all sex between consenting adults is by mutual understanding and a high degree of satisfaction. So! One out of two is not bad!

And you can’t blame kink on just men. Once the pants are off, a man thinks with his penis. A woman worries about the state of her underwear and what her mother would think of all this.

Porn is boring and never artful. Erotica is a natural stimulant for the greatest sex organ of all, the brain. Masturbation is not irreligious nor causes blindness. If that were the case, we would be a nation of the blind leading the blind.

Gee, I still don’t know what Ms. Taormino is so hot about. Delving into history, her kinky sex studies seem to stop around the 1980’s. Ma’am it’s been going on for centuries even in some of the most regulated households.

I think I’ll go back and read the Kama Sutra again, they seemed to have gotten “normal“ right.

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