Monday, 25 March 2013

No simple choice

So I just finished my first service review and budget. SIMPLY STATED- I was left shaking and apprehensive about what I have seen and reviewed. First as a city we have seemingly unsustainable escalating basic operating costs.  Wages control your taxes. The requirements for infrastructure and basic services seem to be in jeopardy. You and I are having to pay huge increases to pay for our cities day to day operations. We are left with little to improve our basic community structure. How can we improve our utilities, roads and community amenities? But really it about the future of where we want our future to go. It is about our quality of life and the ability to sustain service levels. While we create a place where others want to invest and live. It comes down to not what we want but what we can afford.

Unless the senior governments can help us we have no option but to continue to raise your taxes. I do not care if it is 2% on your mill rate or a flat tax it still comes down to just making ends meet and repair a little of your city. We have only one way of getting money from YOUR POCKET. It does not matter if you pay us taxes, the province or the feds. We are simply paying the piper. 

I left today from council chamber shook. I came home and Kathy and I looked at our last city tax notice and tried to figure it out. We live in a modest condo. Our current home is a one bedroom condo in 2012 was assessed at Market Value $89,800 (62,860 Assessed) now is assessed at $169,400 Market Value(118,580 Assessed)  70% Prov. Assessed value both years. So currently we pay $1,717.34 total taxes (all including school)

So how does this affect Kathy and Rick? Simply stated our taxes are going up substantially. Just like yours. Once I see our actual numbers I will post on my blog our actuals.

So how do I as your councillor sell this to you. Well it is really hard but it comes down to past councils letting you down by not increasing your taxes to pay for our cost of living increases and allowing your infrastructure deficits to get right out of control. They also would not reduce services. They did it because it was possibly easy and got them re-elected or they just did not have the appetite to take on the “elephant in the room” our escalating labour costs. We have no choice. Union negotiations have not always allowed for cola “cost of living” increases. Our police and fire costs are over 40% of your taxes. Their labour cost is almost 90% of their respective budgets. You pay for it and we have little room left to work on other things. This year just to make ends meet means we need 3.6% increase for our general operating budget. Just to keep up! That is what pays for just running the city, wages, services, utilities and a few potholes fixed.  Our only other choice is to cut costs. That means you will have less services and less roads fixed.  Higher access fees to recreation facilities. More user fees, more of everything. Or we just tell administration to do what we have for the last decade or two - just do nothing. 

I suggest council may have to ask administration to cap labour increases to 1.6% over the next 4 years and further ask every union and manager to reduce size of our workforce by 10% through attrition over the next 5 years. Hard choices but we have few other options other than keep doing what we are now and increase your taxes. Fire and police will have to look at the same. If they cannot figure it out then we will just have to figure it out for them.

Kathy and I see our city taxes going up and we are probably an average home level in Prince Albert. W5 on CTV says the federal governments spends $8,000 for every man woman and child in Canada. How much comes back to us civically? 

Folks we need your understanding and help. Council is trying their best to do what we need to provide water, sewer, roads, bridges plus fire and police services. You told us you wanted to feel safe and have clean water and sewer utilities, bridges, roads and community services. If you do really want us to start on fixing what has been left to deteriorate then we need your support.  What we are talking about is basic repairs and maintaining your current quality of life then we need you to support these increases. 

Please help us figure out how to protect your city and keep your costs in check.

I ask you to call me or your ward councillors, email or write your suggestions. 
We are all in this together.

Councillor for Ward 2 - Rick Orr

Cell phone 306-960-3663
c/o 1084 Central Avenue: Prince Albert, SK  S6V 7P3

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