Guelph / Opinion

City has options other than taxing, spending

So, the city is holding out its hand again.

A three- to eight-per-cent increase in tax is apparently necessary to maintain the services provided to the residents of Guelph. Anything lower would compromise transportation and bus passes, recreation and splash pads, and snow-clearing services. Or at least that’s what city hall tells us.

Why did they decide to look at cutting out these services when there are dozens of other ways that would not affect the majority of Guelph residents? Instead, they scare us into opening our wallets by threatening to eliminate the things that matter most to the residents.

I have taken the liberty to outline just a few of the ways to help with our city’s budget crisis. They may not be pretty examples, but here is the truth.

1. The money spent on the integrity commissioner is nothing more than a grand illusion to convince the public that there will be no squabbling or wrongdoings by council and city staff. Consider the fact that it cost the taxpayers $10,000 for investigating the councillors who tried to obtain information from city staff, while others publicly ridicule and curse at their fellow colleagues without a consequence. Couldn’t that money be used for the splash pads around town instead?

2. Opening a full-time position for cleaning the court building will apparently save the city approximately $40,000 per year. That’s an excellent start. However, hiring an employee at a salary of more than $70,000 to do this seems quite extreme when there are so many unemployed residents in Guelph who would be willing to take the position for less. Applicants would still line up down the street for a $50,000 salary. That would be a simple way to help cut down without compromising services.

3. Consider all the money spent on hiring outside consultants to help decide whether Guelph residents want to shop at the big-box stores or the small specialty shops. Let the Walmarts and Home Depots spend their own money deciding that. Do you honestly think that these places would ask to set up in our community without doing their own research to determine whether the store will be profitable? Instead, the city loses thousands of dollars in order to delay progress and consequently has to dump more money into the legal fees for doing so, but to no avail. Need more proof that it is a waste of taxpayers’ money? Look at how full the parking lot is at Walmart.

4. Don’t halve the funding for the storefront facelifts in the downtown area. End it completely. It sounds cruel and it may not save the taxpayers a million dollars, but it is a cost that is extremely unfair to the rest of Guelph. We are a business-friendly town, right? If that’s true, shouldn’t every business owner be eligible for the same grant regardless of the business’s location? Changing the store fronts will do very little to encourage the residents to shop downtown. Change what downtown is offering instead, and put the grant money toward reducing the tax increase.

5. Stop changing our garbage system every five years and paying legal fees for the endless errors for doing so. Stop financing the countless pet council or city staff projects taxpayers have been funding in the last 10 years. Put the money back into helping the majority of Guelph.

The city has so many other ways to pare down tax increases without compromising services to residents. But why bother? Some residents will complain and a few might even leave town. But all in all, the residents will always pay. They have no reason to change.

Until city staff and council decide to work together with the best interest of the majority of residents in mind, they will continue to waste our money. Taxes will go up another three to eight per cent every year. Soon we won’t be able to afford to buy the bed that they are making us lie in.

But that won’t stop them from asking us for more.

Published in the Guelph Mercury on November 20, 2012

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