MUNICIPAL TAXES
  
ROBERT KIRWAN - WARD 5
 
MUNICIPAL TAXES
 
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The time has come
for City Council to get control of municipal tax increases. And this is not going to be easy with the kind of infrastructure deficit we are facing in the next few years. We need to put more money into our roads, our recreational facilities and our water systems. We have been putting off these expenses for so many years that it is starting to catch up with us.
 
We will have to find the money from someplace. But if we continue to go to the ratepayers for the money, we are going to drive away some of the people who are living here now, and we are going to discourage new people from moving into the Sudbury Region.
 
This is going to be one of the most challenging things we have to do on City Council and I realize that it is going to take some very creative thinking and will result in many tough choices in the coming years.
 
We will first have to make sure that the money we are currently spending is being used wisely and efficiently. That will likely begin with a full examination of all government departments to determine if there are possibly some areas we can streamline or reconfigure. While doing that we may be able to eliminate some bureaucratic levels that are no longer necessary.
 
We may also have to cut back on any luxuries that we were hoping to begin for the next four years in order to focus all of our expenditures on bringing up our infrastructure to standard or maintaining our current level of operations.
 
I know that we are not alone in this respect. Most municipalities in the province are struggling with the same dilemnna so perhaps more lobbying at Queen's Park will also be on the table. We will continue, as we have done for decades, to lobby Queen's Park for a larger share of the resource tax revenue, but we cannot rely on this as a source of funding any time soon. It would be irresponsible to hold this hope out to residents as a way of gaining votes to get elected.
 
It also doesn't make a lot of sense to expect to be bailed out by the private sector. The private companies are not going to be interested in money-losing ventures where all of the profits are going to the city. They are seeking a return on their investment and they do their homework. So to think that all we need to do is call out to the private sector and say "partnership" is not facing reality.
 
Public-Private-Partnerships are definitely attractive and might solve some of our problems, but it is not easy getting private investments without guaranteeing a healthy return on investment. For example, if an investor does not think he can make a profit from getting into a public private arena and convention centre deal with the City, it isn't going to happen. And when you get into a PPP situation, you must make a profit from the operation, which when it comes to government services is not always a popular approach. So you cannot simply say that the solution is in the establishment of more public-private partnerships.
 
Whatever we do, we really must make every possible effort to avoid any further tax increases, and that includes user fees and water rates. It means that we must streamline our operations and find better ways of spending the money we now receive.
 
BORROW NOW FOR THE FUTURE - NOTHING WRONG WITH A MORTGAGE
 
One of the options that is available to our city is to borrow the money to do what is needed to be done to improve our infrastructure right away and get this done once and for all. There are a couple of candiates who feel the same way and I am convinced that it is the right thing to do.
 
There is no point in simply putting a bandaid on the problem every year with a small amount of money. If we used the money that we are spending on our infrastructure now to pay down principal and interest on a large loan or municipal bond, we could generate the full amount of money needed to fix our infrastructure. That would allow us to be much more attractive to new businesses and new residents. As it stands now we are doing things in piece-meal fashion and no matter what we do, we still have major infrastructure deficits and we seem to be losing ground. That is preventing us from moving forward with economic development and growth in so many areas.
 
So during the next term on Council, I will be suggesting that instead of a pay-as-you-go policy, we do what every home owners does - take out a mortgage so that we can enjoy living and growing in our city now rather than building it up piece by piece when we have the money. We will never build our future that way. And I disagree with the people who say we are mortgaging our future away and leaving our children with the responsibility for paying for that mortgage. If we thought that way, most of our children would be living in tents while their parents were saving enough money to buy lumber to build a house. We need a strong community for our children and if it means we need to take out a mortgage to build that community, then let's do it rather than hoping for a miracle.
 
CITY COUNCIL BEING PRESENTED WITH THREE YEAR PROJECTIONS CALLING FOR 4.9% TAX HIKE IN 2015 FOR REPORT TO COUNCIL CLICK HERE

 
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