Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Draft budget in:
City says, "We'd like some more!"

The modest robber, having already taken the gold and the jewelry, removes the silver and brass and congratulates himself on his moderation. City hall was "mostly smiles" today — or smirks, as the picture goes — according to the London Free Press, as staff presented a $900 million draft budget to council that will raise property taxes and water and sewer charges between 2.8 and 4.5 per cent. The Free Press goes on to say that anticipated tax assessment growth and another installment of municipal welfare from the province are expected to push the hike down to less than 3 per cent. Self-adulations were generously paid up all around city hall in the budget's wake, as much for the auto-suggestion of fiscal responsibility after hikes of 3.9, 5.9 and 6.6 per cent in the three preceding years as for the fact that acceptance of any increase at all will have rendered every previous increase on which it rests irrevocably justified once and for all.

Anne Marie DeCicco presides over the tabling But no one should be confused by the celebration of fiscal responsibility at city hall — the "fig leaf has dropped," to borrow the words of Kimble F. Ainslie, even as the emperors parade their new clothes. The city has long ago lost any pretense of control over the spending that has caused a 25 per cent increase in residential property taxes and a 50 per cent increase in water and sewer charges between 2000 and 2005, and a municipal debt that climbed to $371.1 million in 2006. The draft budget itself represents an additional increase in overall spending of between 4.3 and 4.4 per cent, hardly an example of municipal frugality. Politicians like mayor DeCicco-Best depend on assessment growth and provincial and federal transfers to blunt the appearance of unrestrained spending and to defer some of the burden of the city's tax collection to other jurisdictions, but an imminent deflation of the housing bubble threatens future dependence on the former to mitigate tax increases, and the latter of course only takes from the same pockets as the city does — and as a political strategy is dependent on politics rather than prudence. If — or, far more likely — when these dissembling devices begin to fail, Londoners will have found that both the city's program spending and debt obligations are still entrenched, leading to demands for even higher property tax increases. Council is so drunk on spending that nothing will brake its appetite or cure its delusions of fiscal management until it admits it has a problem.

But not while the party's still going!

City council will spend the next two months debating increases — not decreases — to next year’s budget, if today was any indication.

… “Rather than focusing on areas of the operating budget that achieved target, I would like Council to focus on service growth,” [chief administrative officer Jeff] Fielding wrote in a letter introducing the draft budget. [Emphases added.]

… "There's still a lot of pressure for a lot of other programs from council and the boards," [budget chief Tom Gosnell] said. "So it still could go up. We don't know."
If the budget chief doesn't know, I certainly don't… but here's an indication at least:
Five years after erecting limestone slabs some derided as "Stonehenge," London city hall has suggested spending as much as $335,000 on a second set.


Thucydides said...

Lets start putting these figures in perspective. It has been claimed that it takes $50,000 of investment to create a full time job, which means "Stonehenge II" has prevented the formation of 6.7 full time jobs in London.

I challenge the reader to start doing the conversions for all the other various other spending "initiatives" being touted, and see how many of your fellow Londoners are being deprived of full time employment to pay for these "Creative boondoggles".

Jenn said...

Typical London. Every year at budget time I write a letter to my councillor and Anne Marie DeSucko encouraging them to reduce expenses and cut taxes for London homeowners. Every year I get back a letter stating all the wonderful things my money is being spent on. It seems that a majority of Londoners enjoy the high rate of taxes in London because we keep voting in the same morons.
I am sick of City Hall free lunches, paying out to every Tom, Dick and Harry who comes into City Hall and claim they "need" money to continue their "essential services". With this new hike, I will be paying 150% more on my taxes than I was the year before Anne Marie was voted in for the first time. This summer we're moving just outside the city limits. With the reduced taxes outside the City we can afford a more expensive home that will actually have value when we move as opposed to London homes that I foresee losing their value over the next couple of years as the housing market slows down and taxes increase with zero increased service. Something is very, very wrong down at City Hall.

bonnie abzug said...

Ah, Jenn, the poster-child for the libertarian ethic. Mealy-mouthed. Grasping. Self-absorbed. What's in it for me? For ME?

In truth, you're nothing more than the welfare abuser you and your ilk loathe so much. No difference, really between Jenn and "...every Tom, Dick and Harry who comes into City Hall and claim they "need" money to continue their "essential services". Move "just outside the city limits" so that you can suckle at the public teat as you drive your shiny new SUV from your "more expensive home" across bridges you don't pay for and along roads you don't pay for, consuming services you don't pay for, all the while chuckling at your cleverness in getting something for nothing. And I'm sure I'll see your name in the local rag from time to time, complaining about the state of the roads, or the fact that the traffic lights aren't synchronized, making your commute so bothersome.

bonnie abzug said...

Just as a point of clarification to the above post (I don't want to make it too easy for Mapmaster!), I think we can all agree that no-one likes welfare abusers.

Mike said...

Right on! London is for Londoners. Everyone else who comes here should be grateful that we allow them to leech off our infrastructure.

If Jenn thinks her own time and life are so important that doesn't want to help Anne Maritoinette build the Pyramid then she can just go live her "own" selfish way somewhere else -- and stay the hell off our roads and bridges.

Anyone who would put her own family's financial well-being first is clearly not putting me first. That kind of selfishness is unsustainable and does not contribute to our common good. If Jenn thinks there's a difference between road & sewer maintenance on the one hand, and direct cash transfers to drug addicts and entertainers on the other hand, then she's got a lot of growing up to do.

But even worse than people like Jenn, who steal real Londoners' jobs while living out of town, are the leeching out-of-towners who come to the John Labatt Centre. We went into debt to build that thing, and they think they can just waltz in here, watch Elton John, and waltz out again?

London isn't good enough for these parasites to live in, and Anne Marie isn't good enough for their vote, but somehow our roads and bridges are sure good enough for them to drive on.

Our garbage system is good enough for them to drop their Red Roaster coffee cups in but they turn their noses up at helping us spend $70 million on a performing arts centre.

The choreographed spectacles at our beloved Arena are good enough for them to hoot in approval, but will they stay a while and help save downtown and the Global Spectrum Corporation's profits?

Will they make the sacrifice of purchasing property here, making a commitment to help our officials install the Jet d'Eau with the full gold plating of the original specification?

No, they'll just pack their brood up in the SUV and drive back to their little, self-centred lives, wearing down our pavement, hurting our feelings, and leeching off true, pure-blooded Londoners as they go. Don't come back, now, y'hear?

Clearly, Jenn, London is not the place for you.

MapMaster said...

Wow, that was a heap of nasty presumption and innuendo leveled at Jenn. I can hope it was tongue-in-cheek, because it seems that Jenn was specifically asking for less. Cute trick, too, to marginalize that simply as a libertarian characteristic… could as easily be just another fed-up Londoner (maybe the "silent majority" that doesn't vote and moves their investments outside of town?), liberal, conservative or apolitical.

But what's in it for her? That's a straightforward question with a straightforward answer: just a little bit more of what was hers in the first place. Oh, the grasping, mealy-mouthed tragedy of self-absorption!

bonnie abzug said...

Mapmaster, the cute trick is yours. What Jenn is asking for isn't less, it's more. Well, more or less, anyways. In a manner of speaking. And, of course, some part of it was indeed tongue-in-cheek. Sometimes less is more. Sometimes it isn't, but let's save that for another day.

I can assure you, sir, that any presumption or innuendo was entirely accidental. Or is that incidental? No matter.

MapMaster said...

I am cute, at least when I've had eight hours sleep, but you, madam, are coy. I don't know, however, whether cuteness trumps coyness or the other way around.

bonnie abzug said...

Mike, I'm glad that we could find some common ground. That's the great thing about dialogue - sometimes we find that, even in the face of competing worldviews, there are some positions that just make sense and seem to transcend partisan political posturing.

basil said...

I suggest we build an Israeli-style wall right around the city to keep the mooching bastards out.

bonnie abzug said...

Basil, that really is a bit over the top. I don't want to keep them out. I just want them to pay their way. Perhaps a municipal income tax that is offset by property taxes paid. That way everyone pays their fair share. We don't want to see people getting something for nothing, do we?

Jenn said...

Wow Bonnie, I just left my comment to do some spouting off after I heard that our taxes were being raised again after we are already one of the highest taxed municipalities in Canada. However you seem to have taken deep offence at me leaving London. I grew up in London, I love this city. The leaches that have taken over city hall are the ones who are pushing me out. I already live in the one area of the city where we have no bus service, I never go downtown and work at the very fringes of the south end of the city, so very rare for me to be using the pothole filled streets anyway. I'll be happy to do my shopping in St. Thomas and stay off the roads of London for good. I only complain when I see things like free lunches at City Hall or huge chunks of cash going to places that don't even come close to supporting themselves like the pioneer village. I'm happy to pay an increased fee to show my kids things like the pioneer village or go to the library, but I'm sick of paying all this cash out to charities and others that use it for salaried positions. My whole point is that the City doesn't know how to say "no, I'm sorry but there is no money in the budget for that". I have to balance my family's budget making sure we have enough money to pay the bills, the mortgage, the cars, and still have enough for food and a small savings account, if this means I have to drive an older car, put off those renovations until next year, or have my kids wear hand me down clothes, so be it. This is the type of fiscal responsibility I want to see. As my vote made absolutely no difference and we voted to keep in the same spend happy crew at city hall, I'm talking with my feet and leaving.