For at least the fourth year in a row, council will have to contend with the strategic fortune of a multi-million dollar "surplus." The repeated discovery over the past decade of extra revenues at every level of government, together with the enormous political benefits that they confer upon politicians, should indicate to even the casual observer that under-reporting of anticipated revenue at budget time has become a calculated standard operating procedure of financial departments everywhere.
"Let's remember who put this money there," said Gerry Macartney, the chamber's general manager. "A fairy didn't drop it down on city hall. It came from you and I, the taxpayers."This might be a reasonable suggestion had the Chamber had also recommended using the rest for reduction of the city's almost $400 million debt, but instead it suggests using only a modest 40 per cent for that purpose, leaving still another 40 per cent for the typical spending splurges at budget time that have fostered dependence on tax increases by London's community groups. But this is, of course, the same Chamber of Commerce that reported it would be content with a three per cent property tax increase, following 2.5, 3.9, 5.9 and 6.6 per cent hikes in the preceding years. Who needs politicians when business spokesmen are acceding to such moderation?
In the local grapevine is a rumour that veteran NDPer Controller Gina Barber will be coming out shortly for taxpayers against tax increases in London. This would be a welcome acknowledgement by a socialist of the punitive burdens of property tax hikes on the city's lowest-income earners, against the meagre benefits of council's various wealth redistribution programs. But one must wonder which of the city's massive social spending programs she is willing to cut to achieve that goal — this is, after all, the same woman who approved the Library's request for a 6.4 per cent budget increase.