Sunday, February 6, 2011

Budget Concerns

The consultation process on the city's budget is about to begin. Expect to see a parade of special interests appearing before council, begging bowls in hand, all wanting a bigger slice of the pie and to heck with Mayor Jim's much-touted 2.4 per cent cap on this year's property tax increase.
"Sacrifice" is not a word in the lexicon of these folk. "Alms", they cry. "Give us alms". It's the clarion call of Ottawa's well-developed poverty industry.
"Self-sacrifice" applies, to their way of thinking, only applies to those who pay the freight -- namely the residential property taxpayer. So what if a few more senior citizens on fixed incomes have to sell their homes and move to Smith's Falls because they can no longer afford Ottawa property taxes -- not a problem for the special interest groups.
Citizen Ellie wonders if the majority on this newly-elected council will have the balls to withstand the onslaught. Rideau-Rockcliffe Councillor
Peter Clark won't be shy about saying "GET LOST" -- he used to do it all the time when he was mayor of Cumberland and later as Regional Chair. "Surplus" was not a dirty word to Councillor Clark.
This new council could have seized the opportunity to give a little something back to the hard-pressed ratepayer. There's $22 million in the form of dollars the city doesn't have to spend on certain expensive social programs such as social housing, thanks to their being uploaded back on the province -- where they rightfully belonged in the first place.
When he was provincial Municipal Affairs Minister, Mayor Jim made a big show of this uploading. This was going to ease the burden on the Ottawa ratepayer. It's a wonder he didn't develop sore arms from patting himself on the back.
What's he saying now ? Instead of using this $22 million to offer taxpayers some relief or to reduce the city's debt load, Mayor Jim plans to spend it on his new favorite program -- more social housing.
Citizen Ellie thinks it's time there was some honesty about the need for more social housing in Ottawa. Exactly how many people are homeless ? How many are spending each and every night on the streets ? How many are making one of the city's shelters their permanent home and how many are just passing through ? How many are using the shelters because they've made a personal decision to live off the grid -- criminals dodging the police, deadbeats dodging child support etc. ?
Ten thousand seems to be the magic number in Ottawa. Last fall we were told there were 10,000 children whose parents could not afford to buy school supplies. During the holiday season we were told there were 10,000 families needing toys for their kids plus Christmas hampers. The figure of 10,000 is regularly bandied about as the number of new social housing units needed to put an end to homelessness in Ottawa.
If truth be told there are probably fewer than 200 truly homeless in the city. But there's this huge demand for more affordable housing and it seems that those wanting more affordable housing want it in the downtown core -- where real estate is expensive and rents are high.
Residential property taxpayers who will be stuck with the burden deserve to know who they're going to be subsidizing in these proposed new social housing units. Are they getting a hand-up or a hand-out ? What is the plan to eventually move them into the housing mainstream ? Or is subsidized housing going to be their permanent address ? How many of these new units will be set aside -- earmarked, so to speak -- for former residential property-owners whose property taxes are stating to exceed their mortgage payments ?
How much new debt is the city going to take on in 2011 ? We won't understand the complete impact of the budget until we know what this figure is. Ratepayers should understand that every $12 million the city borrows represents a 1% tax commitment somewhere down the road. Could be a tax increase or a corresponding cut in services. Regardless, money borrowed must be paid back, usually with interest. This year the city's debt charges will cost almost $80 million. Not chickenfeed !
No new posts until March.