City needs to tighten its own belt

Published on January 21, 2016

I write to support those others who have expressed concern about the City of St. John’s budget. The path that the council has chosen is not sustainable and drastic changes are desperately needed.

The province and the city are in a recession, the end of which is nowhere in sight. Businesses across the province are closing and those that are not are reducing costs where ever possible. Each homeowner and taxpayer is doing the same. Things are bad out there and are going to get worse.

As municipal taxpayers, we get distracted by the property assessments, as if our taxes keep rising because our assessments are rising. This is not the case. Does anyone believe that if your property assessment declined your city taxes would decrease?

Our taxes increase simply because the council keeps increasing spending. Spending by city council has increased by more than 50 per cent in the past seven years. And that is going to continue. The council recently signed a new collective agreement with its unions, giving an increase of six per cent in each year. In rough numbers that means payroll costs for the city will increase by approximately $30 million in the next two years of the contract. And that is only if they don’t add more people to the payroll, as is the custom.

If you don’t like the increase this year, wait until next year. The mayor and council will reply that they recently reduced the head count through a reduction of management positions. Obviously, given the announced tax increase, those small changes were not enough. Not near enough.

It is time for the council and the mayor to show leadership and make choices that will reduce costs. Not contain costs, not reduce the rate of growth, but actually reduce costs in a substantive manner. Do what each household and business across the city and province are doing. Delaying the pain only increases the pain later.

Earlier this fall, I watched as city workers planted bulbs in front of one of the city buildings. Two trucks, six workers. Two men to drive the trucks, two men to dig the holes and two men to drop the bulbs in. Throughout the whole operation there were four men standing around watching two guys work. We all know that this is not an uncommon sight in the city.

Where else but in the government would this happen? Who can afford this?

I know I can’t, and I can’t afford to have others spending my money in that manner.

The mayor and the council have to tackle the issue of productivity. Low productivity is the result of poor management and leadership. If they can’t manage to do that, then services should be contracted out. Throughout the province and country, contracts are getting reopened and changes are being made because of the unprecedented conditions. The council cannot simply carry on as if things are OK.

I realize that this opinion will rile many people, but the situation is dire. Drastic changes have to be made.

 

Dave Crosbie

St. John’s property owner