Sunday, October 23, 2005

London 2006 budget deliberations begin.
Citizen advisory in effect: start saving…

The hopes and fears of all our year 2006 are here with us tonight — the annual London pre-budget entrails are being read. According to the London Free Press, a draft budget was presented this week to board of control that proposes a five per cent increase in property taxes. After tax hikes in the past two years of 5.9 and 5.3 per cent, the expectation at city hall may be that Londoners have been sufficiently subdued and demoralized that a five per cent increase may come accross as a reprieve. The commutation is especially marketable with an election coming up next year (these three-year election cycles are so ill-timed when you're working with five-year plans). But taking no chances with a normally pliant electorate, deputy mayor Tom Gosnell is vowing to cut the hike to less than three per cent. According to Joe Belanger, senior agitprop reporter for the London Free Press,

[r]educing the proposed hike to three per cent would save the average homeowner about $42 a year.
That should mollify any recalcitrant taxpayers who still harbour any illusions that their property and income are not vouchsafed to them at the discretion of the city — raising taxes by three per cent will save you money, you reactionary fossil!

As an amusing diversion in the Free Press article, ward 7 councillor Paul Van Meerbergen is reported to be calling again for property tax reductions! Ha ha! Clearly he is an alien of questionable legality employed as council chamber's jester. There cannot be, nor has there been in recent memory, any suggestion that a year might go by without an increase in property taxes — the Free Press would tell us otherwise if this was doctrinally possible. Of course, it's not — such a suggestion could lead uncomfortably to the idea that the efforts and actions of individuals are responsible for the economic well-being of the city and council's ability to spend, rather than vice versa.

Nevertheless, we wish Mr. Gosnell well in his bold attempt to be lenient with the unprogressive elements still remaining in the city. He will have his indulgences sorely limited when city council opens the doors for public input — meaning by those prodigally immodest bourgeois Londoners who wallow in impeccably progressive activism and civic offensives — before cutting the budget. From the London Free Press again:
London city council will seek public input before cutting its budget for new projects, a budget that would be halved if the city expands police headquarters.
[Ed. note: Huh?]
Jonathon Sher, Free Press reporter and apparently an Ontario high school graduate, appropriately notes the urgency of a unexpectedly frugal council:
Much is at stake. A wish list of projects includes affordable housing, an overpass at Hale and Trafalgar streets, enhancements at the forks of the Thames, road widenings and the possible redevelopment of Wonderland Gardens.

Many of the capital projects won't make the cut if council keeps to a regime of self- discipline it imposed on itself after borrowing huge sums of money for projects such as a new central library and the John Labatt Centre.

Council capped its borrowing at $30 million a year, a limit that could play out this way:
  • The city plans to spend $42 million maintaining existing buildings and works. Of that, $19.4 million would be borrowed, leaving $10.6 million to borrow for new projects.
  • If council approves an expansion of police headquarters, it would need to borrow about another $5.5 million, leaving only $5 million to be borrowed for other projects.
  • If council continues to expand Airport Road, it must borrow $3 million, leaving $2 million of debt-financing for 45 projects on the books.
Comrade constituents of our elected betters, unite at the mechanically democratic public input meetings! Don't let those 45 worthy projects be orphaned to the cause of fiscal prudence. I don't know what those 45 projects are either, but you know as well as I that it doesn't matter — historical municipal dialectism is only served by obedience!

For a history of London city council's last attempt to trim the property tax hike, check out the London Fog's London Budget 2005 Archives and take lavishly progressive heart.