Sunday, January 23, 2005

No wonder that report was kindly kept away from council: they don't care and it makes them look bad.

Yet another scandal at city hall:

Some city councillors are questioning whether to delay passing a nearly seven-per- cent tax hike next week after learning of a study, obtained by The Free Press, that shows London property taxes are among Ontario's highest. Five council members said yesterday they might ask to extend budget talks by days or weeks, depending on the contents of a two-month-old study that staff failed to give them.


The 250-page study, by BMA Management Consulting Inc., has been done annually for several years and is regarded by civic officials as the most comprehensive comparison of taxes in Ontario.

Staff at city hall received a draft of the study in November and should have received the final version in December.

But neither was given to city council nor city manager Jeff Fielding.
Remember Londoners, our taxes are among the highest in Ontario due to provincial downloading - incompetence is not a factor at all:
Asked why the BMA study had not yet been given to council, city treasurer Mike St. Amant said staff preferred to first analyze it themselves.

That process had barely begun, he said, because staff were already knee-deep in numbers and reports needed to complete the budget.

St. Amant said he received the draft study in November, but wasn't aware a final version was distributed last month.
Some assorted reactions from our wise elders:
Ward 3 Coun. Bernie MacDonald came out solidly against any budget delay, blaming some colleagues for drawing out the process.

"They have done every other thing but do their job and get it through and get it over with," he said yesterday.


... supporting a delay, Ward 6 Coun. David Winninger said he's concerned the city spends $4,000 a year for the report he'd never heard of before.

"While no one wants to unduly delay the budget, if there are some things we can learn from it, a week or two longer won't make that much difference," he said.

The BMA report has been done each year for several years and is regarded by civic officials as the most comprehensive comparison of taxes in Ontario.

Ward 5 Coun. Sandy White said she'd support a delay.

But MacDonald was incensed at the idea.

"I have been on council for 25 years and what I've seen of the performance of the councillors during this budget process that has taken place -- it has been the worst, the worst in 25 years. It is a real disgrace," MacDonald said.

MacDonald was especially angry that when the city manager froze spending for three departments, as council demanded, he was then asked to cut even more.

"These councillors should go out and start with a paper route and learn how to count before they start getting into hundreds of thousands of dollars and trying to run a city," MacDonald fumed.

Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco said the BMA report is just statistics that won't tell council how to cut the budget.

She said there "may be some interesting information" in the report to help set future goals, "but the budget is the budget and if people haven't found areas to cut in two months, this report doesn't tell you where to cut. There is nothing in here that tells you what to do at all," she said.

Ward 7 Coun. Susan Eagle said council must avoid wasting time and set the tax rate.

Controller Gord Hume said he hasn't seen any compelling reason for a delay. "Some of us are fighting to make the taxes the lowest and at the right level regardless of comparative rates."
No compelling reason for a delay you say? Council attempts to blame their budget woes on provincal downloading, and yet generally ignore the fact that Londoners are among the highest taxed in the province. If downloading is the main issue, as many members of council would have us believe, then how come other cities manage with less theft from its citizens? No wonder that report was kindly kept away from council: they don't care and it makes them look bad. Of course, now council members look even more ridiculous than usual, as it is now known that city staff hides some information from council and that council was apparently ignorant of a report that they should have expected. Makes you wonder what they base their budget decisions on.
Keep up the good work Anne Marie! We appreciate good examples of greed, ignorance and incompetence.