The 2017 Town of South Bruce Peninsula Budget 6-8

This is my personal viewpoint.  I do not speak for council.

Council and staff have been working on the 2017 budget for several weeks.  The budget is getting very close to being finalized.

At this stage the budget includes a tax increase of about 3.3 percent for the average residence.

But the 3.3 percent tax increase is very misleading.

Because to get the tax increase down to 3.3 percent the plan is to:

 1) siphon cash from our working capital reserve to pay for expenditures and ,

2) underfund and run down our reserves for future capital projects like roads, fleet replacement, a new landfill site, etc.)

If we were to keep these reserves at a proper level, the tax increase could be more like five or six percent.   That is the real increase at this point.  The 3.3 per cent increase is an illusion.

Here are some opportunities to get the increase down:

Clubs should pay property taxes

Currently there are four clubs that do not pay property taxes, even though the municipal act requires that we tax them, and even though the former treasurer said that we had to tax them.  By giving the clubs a property tax break, all other residents and businesses have to pay more tax.  This is unfair to the rest of the residents and to businesses.

Tourism operators should not be subsidized by residential property taxes

There are several budget items that take money out of the pockets of residents and give the money directly to tourism businesses, or spend the money indirectly to assist tourist businesses.  This is unfair to all residents who do not have tourism businesses, and is especially unfair to residents who have businesses or occupations that are not tourism.

Some claim that taxing property owners and using the money to assist tourism businesses helps the economy and makes residents more prosperous.  But that claim does not stand up to scrutiny.   Taking money out of residents’ pockets through taxes reduces their spending on goods and services, and reduces investment (through savings) in the generation of gods and services.  That diminishes the economy.  When this economic drain is compared to any benefit from subsidizing businesses, the net impact on the economy will in my estimate be negative.

In addition to being unfair, subsidizing tourism with property tax dollars is discouraged by the  municipal act section 106, which reads:

Assistance prohibited

  1. (1) Despite any Act, a municipality shall not assist directly or indirectly any manufacturing business or other industrial or commercial enterprise through the granting of bonuses for that purpose.  2001, c. 25, s. 106 (1).

I am not against economic development or growth.  I only oppose forced taxpayer subsidies to businesses.

Sauble town square

At this point there is $400,000 of capital costs in this year’s budget and another $800,000 slated for the 2018 budget for a “town square” at Sauble Beach.   The reason it is so costly is that it is not a town square at all, but is instead a concert venue for loud bands for the purpose of attracting tourists for the benefit of the tourist industry.   The town square design even has dressing rooms for the bands.   Residents will pay dearly through property taxes and in return will lose the quiet ambience that brought them to Sauble Beach in the first place.  And there will be significant ongoing operating costs too.

I would prefer to have a simple town square, a real town square, which could be made for less than $100,000.

Extra school taxes

About a third of your property tax bill is education taxes.   Education tax rates are set by the province. Neither the school board nor the town has any jurisdiction or right to levy extra taxes.  Yet that is exactly what the Town of South Bruce Peninsula does.  It collects an extra school tax and pays it to the Bluewater School board.   You pay huge education taxes and then you pay an extra hidden education tax.   That is unfair and of questionable legality.

I support keeping all of our schools operating.  But we should be getting the funds to keep the schools operating from legitimate education taxes, not from extra municipal property taxes.

Funding doctors

Provision of Health Care services is the sole jurisdiction of the province.   Yet the town collects extra property taxes from the residents to pay doctors to practice here.   While this benefits some, it costs all and is beyond the jurisdiction of the town.

I support a concerted effort to get the province to get doctors to practice in TSBP.  But I cannot support increasing property taxes to pay doctors.

Payments to charities

The budget contains some significant donations to charities.   Donations to charities should be voluntary, private decisions.   The town should not be making your charity-donation decisions for you, without your consent, through property taxes.

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There are also opportunities to better serve the residents.  Here’s one:

Noise and fireworks by-law enforcement

We have good fireworks and noise bylaws.  We use to have good enforcement of fireworks and noise bylaws.  But now there is no enforcement outside 9-5 Monday to Friday.  This leaves the residents vulnerable to harassment by inconsiderate hooligans all summer long.  A majority of council members have contemptuously decided that residents are not entitled to enjoyment of their properties.  These members do not seem to care about the residents and make disparaging remarks about any resident who asks for enforcement.  One council member has even openly encouraged violation of the bylaws by publically indicating that there will be no by-law enforcement outside of 9-5 Monday to Friday.  This is totally disrespectful of the residents, especially when you consider that the revenue generated from after-hours enforcement may well exceed the extra costs.

After much discussion, however, council members have agreed, some very reluctantly, to add by-law enforcement on weekends for the summer.  But enforcement is needed after hours during the week too.

Public Meeting

There will be a public meeting regarding the budget.  The current date is March 30th at 7:00 pm in council chambers at town hall.

An announcement is at:

http://www.southbrucepeninsula.com/en/townhall/publicnotices.asp

Also in the announcement is information on how you can send comments in or make comments at the public meeting.

 

 

Craig

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