Sitting down? Good. You might want a drink, too. A strong one. Ready? Get a grip on your chair. Here goes:
Collingwood is looking at a 3.9% tax hike for 2016. And that’s just its own portion.
Let me help you up. No, that isn’t wrong. It’s the proposed budget hike this council is contemplating. It was presented to council at an all-day meeting last week. The Connection reported on it, Dec. 2, in case you missed it (nothing in the EB, though).*
That municipal tax raise will be coupled with an increase from the county, sending your taxes skyrocketing up another several points.
Why, you ask, would council raise taxes when we have a surplus? Because it can. Because council is in thrall to the administration and does its bidding.
And you, dear reader, just have to grin and bear it. Have another stiff drink before you read the rest.
Last year, council had a surplus of about $3 million (the result of the efforts of the former council to keep costs down, plus OPP refunds). That should have guaranteed a tax freeze in 2015, or even better yet: a DECREASE. So what did council do instead? It gave itself a pay hike and raised your taxes. And it raised your water rates too, just to rub salt in your wounds.
This year that surplus is… nowhere to be found. Just swept under the administration rug. Ignored. This is not the surplus you’re looking for. Move along.
And no one on council has even asked what happened to it. It just disappeared. Oh well, what’s a million or three matter?
At the recent budget meeting this month, Council was told by the administration that we are already overtaxed. One of the most overtaxed communities in the province, in fact. Then out of the other side of its mouth, that same administration says we need to tax residents more.
The reason for this pushme-pullyou is that the administration continues to build its case for its fallacious “sky is falling” financial picture to justify a greater tax grab, while shedding crocodile tears over the necessity to do so.
It stems from codswallop in a report by a group of outside consultants presented in late 2014. But you already know that report’s a load of dingo’s kidneys and long discredited, right?
Doesn’t matter. A consultant said it, so, like everything you read on the internet, it must be true. This council has swallowed it; hook, line, sinker and rod. Why bother thinking for yourself when someone can do it for you?
The tired old corpse of the report gets dragged out periodically to shore up the administration’s incessant demands for more money. And, bizarrely, to help justify the pay hike council will be giving itself and town staff. Oh yes: while you get taxed to the teeth, council pats itself on the back and gives itself more money for its brave efforts to impoverish the rest of us. It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it.
Then there’s the bizarre “internal loans” conspiracy claptrap. Smarter people than I (including the town’s own auditor!) have long since debunked that old dinosaur, but admin staff still drag it out and flutter in front of the bemused council. Shiny, ooh, shiny…
I cannot figure out if they’re being deliberately misleading or they simply don’t understand basic accounting. Clearly council is in the latter category because they’re still falling for it. Anyone who ever ran a business sees right through it.
Earlier this year, council dissolved the utility/water board (a group of highly competent, experienced professionals and staff) on recommendation from staff, and replaced them with some of their own: a clique of inexperienced councillors and equally inexperienced staff.
Utility workers are being moved from Collus to work under the town control at the end of this month. From what I’ve heard, none of them are happy about it; moral is at an all-time low.
The CAO promised this would save the town $700,000 a year. Yet the proposed budget doesn’t mention that alleged savings anywhere.
Curious, eh? I guess it must have evaporated, like the surplus.
I suspect the real truth will be that this ill-advised and even more poorly-executed change will end up costing taxpayers a whole lot of money. And that means higher taxes yet again as council lurches from self-made crisis to self-made crisis.
This change also turned the once-positive, mutually beneficial relationship with Collus toxic, drove several top staff to resign, destroyed moral, and has ruined our reputation among outsiders. With the airport brouhaha and our neighbours accusing the town of being anti-business, our reputation is in tatters. What a wonderful legacy.
Back to the budget… Last council (2010-14) we had one small tax increase in four years: an average of less than 0.5% per year. This council… OUCH! Big tax increases from day one. PLUS the 5% increase in water rates. Let them eat cake…
This is despite reports that a quarter of Ontario homeowners are already struggling to pay for their homes. Council doesn’t care, as long as it gets its money. And its pay raise, of course.
If this budget goes through this council will have raised taxes 7% by its second year in one of the most overtaxed municipalities in Ontario (the admin’s own words). Imagine what the tax rates will be after four years of their mismanagement!
Last term, Deputy Mayor Lloyd oversaw the budget and kept a tight lid on egregious staff requests, directing a tight oversight on the process. Costs, expenses and taxes were kept low for four years.
This term… staff are in control and running the ship. They get what they want. Departments showed an across-the-board increase of at least 2% this budget. That means pay raises for everyone (break out the champagne…).
Ka-ching! But hey, it’s only money. YOUR money, true, but why could council worry about YOUR ability to pay their wages and expenses?
* No one from the local media could be bothered showing up for the public budget meeting. The only person in the audience was an unemployed troglodyte.