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?