Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Regina: I'm more than a taxpayer

Chad Moats, a frequent commentor here and a student activist with a fledgling municipal advocacy/political group Coalition for Citizen-Friendly Regina has a letter in today's Regina Leader Post.

In his letter he defends the inane ramblings of a local union chief who, every year, addresses city council begging for a tax increase. I was actually with Moats for a while:

A quick study of the City of Regina's capital budget for the next five years will show you that the capital investment by the city has decreased over the last three years, from nine per cent of the general operating budget to seven per cent this year, not including increasing debt costs.
This is true. Despite all the revenue-sharing increases Regina has enjoyed over the years, very little of that is going back into city roads. And trust Chad and I, our roads are very bad out here. It's not the city's fault entirely -- Regina has a funny clay soil structure -- which causes the ground to heave and toss with every freeze and thaw, so roads are a challenge. That said, a lot of cities have challenges. Address them and move on. So I'm with Chad so far.

The reserve fund has been eroded over the last four years from $25.556 million in 2002 to a projected $8.492 million next year. That's a 67-per- cent drop in five years. At that rate, property taxes could be held in check for less than three years, but then the tax hike would be excessive.

This is an excellent point. The last few city budget have essentially been deficit budgets. Revenues have been going through the roof, but they are still sucking the reserve funds dry.
I would argue taxes shouldn't be increased, but instead decreased. City council and the mayor should be attempting to secure a set formula for transfers from the provincial government.

Yes and no. No, property taxes should not be increased, but for completely different reasons. Moats fails to mention in his letter that Regina is actually rolling in dough right now. Revenues are sky high. Regardless of a mill rate increase, people will see a significant tax increase solely because of assessment -- despite what the city tells you.

Former Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell (now the governor of PA) once said "you can't build a city on pity, you can't build a city on fear." His point was you can't effectively govern with one hand out to another government looking for help because, one day, that help will not come. Generally the CTF agrees with increased revenue sharing, but muncipalities have look at their own spending first.

Then he completely loses me:

In the end, the majority of Regina residents would be willing to pay for quality public services as evidenced by the large protests stemming from the attempted library and school closures. If, in the end, my property taxes have to increase so the parks are well kept, and schools and libraries stay open, then I will grudgingly accept this because I'm more than a taxpayer -- I'm a citizen of a fantastic city.
Does he really want to keep those schools open? At what cost? Once the school is completely empty of live students, should we keep the lights on so Moats feels good about being a "citizen"? With our current demographics, we should be closing at least 11 public schools in the next couple years. But Moats, and he's not alone on this, would sooner see them kept open, for whatever reason.

Is part of being a "citizen" the complete suspension of critical thought?


David MacLean said...

We're not going to tolerate flame wars.

Robert McClelland said...

We're not going to tolerate flame wars.

Then why did you end your post with this flame?

Is part of being a "citizen" the complete suspension of critical thought?

David MacLean said...

I don't think it's a flame. To express interest in keeping schools open that no longer have enough children in them requires a suspension of critical thought.

Shawn said...

Now, now David. Surely you realize that proles like us should just shut up and pay all the taxes people like Chad "need" to make themselves feel good. After all they are the true enlightened ones.

Chad, you want to keep an empty school in your neighborhood open? Donate your own money to City Hall, keep your grubby little mitt out of my pocket.

winston churchill said...

Being a citizen involves moving away from a mindset of 'self centred' ideology. Is that a flame war?

Chad Moats said...

I am more then surprised that my letter to the editor was worthy of your critique.Thanks.
You go on about empty schools or low enrollment, can you tell me the population of each school slated to close ? What is a enough of student population? Is 160 kids enough?

Chad Moats said...

I would also like to add, that you agreed with 90% of the letter and then critised one word in a concluding paragraph. Nothing about the libraries, parks or reducing property taxes. If my plan was implemented , it would result in a net tax decrease for everyone. A 30% reduction in property taxes puts an extra $30+ million a year in owners hands. If anyone reads the letter and your assessment will notice the bulk of it is untouched or rebuked. In fact only one word is attacked. One word David. Slow day?

R.S. Porter said...

The library closures and the school closures have a lot in common: both were a good idea. And yet, each time the city completely went about it the wrong way. Instead of explaining the reasons and consulting with the community, they merely announced the closures, which resulted in much outrage.

In the case of the libraries, we have too many, and many of the buildings are old, decrepit, too close together, and too expensive to modernize. For schools, a decreasing school population and huge operating costs necessitate some closings. Schools like Sheldon-Williams and Dieppe cost an exorbitant amount of money. It is not sustainable and I don't want to contribute towards failing school infrastructure while the roads are horrible amoung other things.

Someday day the city will learn to gain a backbone and explain its plans more fully. I think it's time Pat was replaced.

Mad Hatter said...

Call me mad... But I am convinced that if every socialist, social activist, NDPer, Union leader and Union hack voluntarily paid the amount of tax they think everybody should be paying, the rest of us wouldn't have to pay a dime. Come on Chad, quit being a hypocrite. Everytime you buy a beer send in a couple of bucks to city hall.

David MacLean said...

Chad, I think all schools should be able to sustain a grade one, and a grade two class. Don't ask me -- asked the administrators what they think.

Chad, you say outright that you don't support a property tax increase. But you do say that, instead of raising taxes, they should just go out and get a PST point transfer from the province. I have a bag of beans I can sell you, too.

Then you say yeah, you would support a tax increase if it means keeping schools and libraries open. Sorry, it's not that simple.

Regina Public Schools is forecasting 1,376 fewer students by 2009. That's the combined equivalent of Coronation Park, Mcdonald, imperial, mcdermid, haultain, dieppe , mclurg and herczmer schools. Got that? That's just the elementary level!

The high school population is expected to decline by 25 per cent, or 2000 students by 2014. That's the equivalent of Cochrane, Johnson, Martin and Scott.Campbell alone is scheduled to lost 310 students iin just 8 years.

But to you, keep those schools open. Even if they are half empty.

To you, it's an ideological thing.

And yes, it was a slow day.

Chad Moats said...

Can you tell me the population of each school slated to close ?
What is a enough of student population Elementary/High school?
Is 160 kids enough for elementary?
Where would you like to see the avg class size ?
I am sure there are K-12 schools in rural Sask with less pop then the majority of the K-8 schools slated for closing, should we centralize those ?

David MacLean said...

The are centralizing in rural Saskatchewan. And, rural schools are much less expensive to operate.

And yes, I can tell you the exact population of the schools scheduled to close.

Or, you could read for yourself.


Chad Moats said...

You still avoided a few questions but the fact remains, your spin has resulted in a misrepresentation of my letter. My letter clearly stated that the cities budget is unsustainable. I assert the facts,you concurred. I proposed an alternative that would lower property taxes with no increase in other taxes ( I thought you supported lower taxes ?).
I proposed an idea, which no one at City Hall has thought of,a sustainable long term solution. Will it be easy? No Would it be worth it? Yes
In my conclusion I stated that if in the end my property taxes increase to keep my public services strong then I am happy to pay them. I used schools,libraries and parks as examples, I could have said rinks,roads and sidewalks. This is the area of disagreement,not schools per se but public services. I support them and you wish to sell them to the highest bidder. The facts are the facts and we can not disagree on them.
By the way, to attack an example is unprofessional and poor debating skills.

David MacLean said...

The Devil is in the details, Chad.

David MacLean said...

I agree that the budget has essentially been in deficit for a number of years, and that the city should focus on roads. I heartily disagree that a tax increase is anywhere near justified, and I think your comments about libraries and schools are wrong.

sask.taxpayers federation said...

Some of these schools to be closed have 6 classrooms in them. They are expensive to keep opened. We need one school system. 2 systems are too expensive.

Shawn said...

STF, yup, lets close the public system and move it all to the Catholic schools. They undertook the necessary (albeit painful) steps to streamline their system several years ago. The public system is still unwilling to admit it has a problem.

R.S. Porter said...

The Catholic system should be closed. It's completely ridiculous to have state sponsored religion.

Shawn said...

I am arguing on the grounds of efficiency. Public system crap, Catholic system already made changes to allow it to survive. Besides, I believe there isn't mandatory prayer or Scripture classes.

Personally I am totally in favor of a voucher-based system. Never have in a gulag like SK though.

Sask.Taxpayers Federation said...

Yeh the last time the public school board closed a bunch of schools the separate board said come to our schools. It's a tax grab that has very little to do with religion. Also in the separate system(our children attended) You pay for note books ,pencils and erasers. It cost us about 140.00 per year per child more than the public system.

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