By: Karen Wolfe
I’m thinking the 2020 draft budget brought down by the Town of Georgina on October 23rd is going to result in a whole lot of financial pain.
Within a few short years, we will owe a whopping $100 million in loans to finance the MURC, the new Civic Centre, the West Park Redevelopment, the new Pefferlaw Fire Hall, Phase 2 and 3 of the Link, a new Sutton Community Park and further down the road, a new fire hall for south Keswick.
The budget suggests that with an interest rate of 2.7 per cent, we will pay close to $5 million in annual repayments for 30 years to pay off all of these loans.
I think a couple of things need to happen to mitigate the pain. Residents moving up to Georgina from the city to take advantage of cheaper housing options need to understand that Georgina is not Toronto.
In other words, the city amenities they are accustomed to, cannot possibly be available here because we don’t have the Industrial, Commercial and Institutional (ICI) tax base that the city has to pay for them.
So, council needs to stop listening to demands for expensive city-type amenities until they put some serious money in a budget to attract a decent ICI sector that will help us pay for everything they want to build. In short, we need to get serious about attracting industry.
It isn’t fair and it isn’t sustainable that the residential tax base should have to carry the load here. In my opinion, a $100 million debt load for this community is ridiculous. First of all, there is no guarantee that the 2.7 per cent interest rate the Town is using will not increase over the 30-year term of the loan.
Secondly, no one knows if the Canadian economy will suffer an economic downturn.
Thirdly, the Town of Georgina has a backlog of repairs and maintenance relating to its current facilities of $24 million. And that fact ISN’T even addressed in this budget’s 10-year capital forecast.
Right now, without the $100 million of debt, the draft budget is calculating a tax increase of something just shy of four per cent and that is already more than double the Canadian GDP growth rate.
And, what about escalating project estimates and ever-decreasing development growth — growth that is supposed to help pay for some of this stuff but has experienced a definite down-turn since most of these projects were first visualized. So far I’ve only heard two councillors bring up the subject of affordability — Rob Grossi and Mike Waddington.
But the one thing that really burns my buns, is the cavalier approach council took to the budget input responses they received from residents.
The word “cavalier” is probably generous because comments by residents were totally ignored.
Resident feedback told the Town they DO NOT WANT the MURC or a new Civic Centre — yet both of those projects are going forward in this budget.
The public also told council they feel property taxes are already too high and they DO NOT WANT any increase in taxes — yet we will be faced with an increase of almost four per cent.
Residents also responded by saying they want to see more investment in our beaches and a greater emphasis put on attracting industry and job growth. I couldn’t find anything in this budget that specifically supports either of those suggestions.
My bottom line here is, if you are not going to listen to the input you asked for, then don’t waste my time asking for it.
Council has always made a big production out of saying “public input is a vital component of the budgeting process”. The 2020 budget tagline is “Your Budget, Your Say”. In a pig’s eye, it is!
It is “Their Budget and Their Say!” so stop trying to make us believe that consultation is a priority.