[Kudos to Brampton City Council]
It is not good news but is not all bad either. A relatively inexperienced city council cut through a lot of the fanciful schemes and passed a budget last night.
I would not get too giddy because home owning residents of Brampton are still facing a 5.79% tax hike amounting to about $150 for the average homeowner. Given that the national inflation rate is less than half that amount, I won’t get too giddy.
It could have been worse had Brampton staff be allowed to have their way with tax payers money or if a rookie City Council had caved into to a number of special interest groups intent on grabbing hard earned dollars from other residents and feather their own nests.
Given that homeowners are also about to get whacked with an additional 2% by a Wynne & Lieberal imposed special levy to ante up part of the cost of a new medical thing (note: not hospital), the total rate increase is the actual average tax hike is closer to $675.00.
Where council scored big points in my mind was in imposing a pay freeze on the hired help. There are huge limits to that one though since the only sector of wages frozen was non-union workers. The initiative had only minimal affect since the ratio of union versus non-union employees of the City of Brampton is near 27:1. I also commend the Council for fending off a devious staff attempt to increase staff sizes (head count) beyond attrition and population growth rates.
Council also imposed a pay freeze on their own wages but left me wondering which shell the pea was under in a hocus-pocus routine where on the one hand they seemed to be taking away a portion of income free status on their own salaries and, on the other hand finding a much less than transparent way of crafting it into some sort of formula wherein they may (MAY!) end up taking more home in their own pay envelopes each month.
Listening to the lamentations of various council members engaged in the debate on the subject of the tax-free wage segment was comical at times. You walked away from that discussion with an uneasy feeling that they just do not “get it”. Too many times form too many councilors it became obvious that their central concern was avoiding public criticism instead of trying to save the residential tax payer some money. I heard to many of them say, “we do not want to be known as the highest paid City Council in Canada.” To my thinking that is an incorrect motivation. They are dealing with an increasingly aging population that can ill-afford tax hikes no matter how they are explained. You can only put so much lipstick on a pig: and it is still a pig at the end of the day.
Clearly there was a public will for this Council to begin paying income tax on each dollar of GROSS salary. That’s the way it is for the rest of us and one would think that would have sufficed. Instead, they engaged in a parlor game of jiggery-pokery and attempted to blend in a repayment (to themselves) to make up for the income that would have been deducted. That made no sense and the provision for the subsidized reimbursement was left in the budget with the matter to be sent to a blue ribbon citizen panel to decide. Score that one a minus on the transparency index.
I was delighted to see council not pander to a small but noisy special interest faction that would have had residential taxpayers provide free students busing in Brampton. The cold hard reality of that one may have added another $6 million in equipment demands and an annual boost of $9 million in operating budgets. I say, hats off to council for not succumbing to the dog and pony show surrounding that request. This is not the first time that attempt to ride for free was made. For those who may recall, the Board of Education turned down the same request in 2012.
I notice also that a few of the grant money groups had their hand outs lopped back by 50% while others had the door slammed shut. I can’t argue against anything that saves residential home owning taxpayers some of their hard earned money.
Political correctness ended up causing another $140,000 to be frittered away in frivolity. To be politically correct, it seems the city acquiesced to a varied “special interest” group of individuals that identify themselves as persons with “mother-tongues” other than French or English. I never have “gotten” that one given the enormous amount already expended on English as a Second Language programs. It always seemed illogical for tax payers to be paying for English lessons on the one hand and then translating all government materials into a myriad of other very foreign languages. It just seems like sucking and blowing at the same time.
There is another hit that the Brampton City Council avoids. When the home owning residents get their residential tax bill it will also include a 0.8% increase in Regional taxes. All told, in reality those that own home will be looking at a tax bump of 6.75% plus the health centre levy of 2.0%. And, there is another hidden cost that was cleverly hidden. The Region of Peel will also be upping your bill for water and sewage by another 7.0%. That utility bill will extract $40 per year from home owners.
Note: those living in basement apartments will not be affecting by any of this. You may continue to use the vast array of services and infrastructure without charge. Aren’t we nice?
So, rating the first budget of Brampton’s new City Council I grade this one as a C minus and dangerously close to a failing grade of D. I am a fair minded grader and cannot penalize a predominantly rookie council for such things as staff failing to build in reserves over the years (as required by generally accepted accounting theory and principles) nor will I find fault in them simply delivery a Wynne/Lieberal tax grab for a health centre monstrosity currently under construction.
Let’s hope that this present council’s next three budgets show greater diligence.