I was cc’d on the email thread below, both these guys make some great points.
NOW DECLARE THE TWO OF YOU FOR GOD SAKES!!!
Letter to the EB from Rick Crouch
Thank you for your coverage of Town Council’s budget deliberations in your February 28th edition of the paper titled “Councillors begin to tackle budget.” With a municipal election looming this fall, these very discussions will no doubt and should, have a profound impact on voter’s decision making when they mark their ballots.
As many homeowners and tenants in Town may recall, in February of 2013, we received a four page, full colour publication in our Collus utility bill titled “Half Time” news. This football themed newsletter (published at taxpayer expense) summarized the many alleged accomplishments made during the first two years of the current Council and further, it went on to highlight their second half game plan.
Among the many noted highlights and I quote, first year “Kept taxes and user fees low.” Second year, “kept taxes and user fees low again.” One of the many definitions of “low” refers to something that is lying at or below the general level. The fact is based on 2013 tax rates, property taxes within the Town of Collingwood and second highest to Meaford. The neighbouring municipalities of Clearview, Wasaga Beach, Blue Mountains and Grey Highlands all have tax rates lower than Collingwood. Based on the 12 month average MLS® single family home price for our area of $332,000 as of December 2013, taxes on a home in Collingwood in this value range are anywhere from $470 to $930 more than in these other municipalities.
Perhaps the most outlandish claim made in the “Half Time” newsletter was as follows: “Developed a tax-neutral solution to build much-needed, new recreational facilities through Sprung technologies.”
At the time, I sent an email to Mayor Cooper and members of Council pointing out among other issues, “you committed to spend over $12 million dollars and in the process divided the community in terms of what recreational facilities people wanted and needed to best serve the municipality. Operational costs for the Sprung buildings is a complete unknown at this point. Whatever they are they will result in added annual operating expenses on the Town’s budget moving forward yet the claim is being made that this entire recreational initiative is “tax neutral?”
As per your article of February 28th and to no surprise, we now learn that the Town’s Parks and Recreation department is asking for an additional $350,000 in 2014 to operate the two Sprung facilities. That number too is at best an estimate as with well under one year of operation we effectively have no idea what the true costs of running these facilities will be.
Vague claims about “keeping taxes low” and spending millions of dollars in alleged “tax-neutral” capital acquisitions are just two examples of where the citizens of Collingwood have and continue to be misinformed if not mislead by some of our current municipal officials. Either they simply don’t have the skill set to understand and effectively manage the $42 million operating expense budget for the municipality, or they simply are doing so on their own terms and are spinning whatever storyline is needed to have us believe otherwise.
It’s a sad state of affairs when an “integrity Commissioner” has to be hired placing an additional financial burden on taxpayers in order to keep the very persons we have elected and entrusted to run our Municipality on track. Integrity can’t be sought, taught or bought. You either have it or you don’t. Hopefully future expenditures in the forthcoming 2014 budget will be reviewed with greater scrutiny than in the past and any correspondence touting Council’s accomplishments such as alleged tax savings and other achievements will as the result of having an Integrity Commissioner, be accurately communicated and substantiated with facts versus the financial fiction we have received in the past.
And Brian Saunderson said:
Good letter Rick – My recollection of the July 16 2012 Council meeting at which Rick Lloyd introduced “his” membrane structure concept, he justified his concept by stating that he did not want Collingwood to have an annual operating deficit for its rec. facilities in excess of $500,000. With the “projected” $350,000 increase for 2014, based on my understanding that the current Eddie Bush and outdoor rink annual deficit is approx. $365,000, we can now expect our annual rec. facilities deficit will be approx. $715,000. If you contrast that with the projected reduction in the rec. deficit of approx. $25,000 annually with a unified complex in which the Y covered all costs for the pool, that amounts to a swing of over $800,000 annually. Over 10 years that is $8 million – or almost the difference between the total cost of the Sprung facilities vs. a brick and mortar single facility (ie. $14.5 million plus 8 million or $22.5 plus the Eddie Bush costs of $1.5 million vs. $27.5 million for the unified rec. centre) This does not even factor in the proposed round of federal infrastructure grants which are planned under the current federal budget, which would mean that we could have the central brick and mortar facility for less capital $’s and significant operational savings – This Council has buried us with multiple facilities that are second rate at best and will be an albatross around our necks for decades to come.