Comments to Central Elgin council from ratepayers association

December 3, 2009

The Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Councillors
The Corporation of the Municipality of Central Elgin
450 Sunset Drive
St. Thomas, ON N5R 5V1

2010 Municipal Budget

Ladies & Gentleman:

It’s a very harsh economic environment, especially for the many who have or are about to lose their jobs and for those who must live off retirement funds that have taken a severe blow in the investment markets.

The excuse of provincial downloading seems to be back. The potential loss of $500,000 from the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF) may be real but it’s a red herring. All municipalities will be effected by this chop of funds. It doesn’t change the fact that Central Elgin is one of the most highly taxed municipalities in Ontario. The Municipality of Central Elgin and the County of Elgin have historically done a poor job of keeping tax increases near inflation. Only a roll back of the municipal and county tax levy and costs over the next five years will placate voters in Central Elgin. Our membership and the public are becoming more vocal about this issue.

As we advised in recent correspondence CERA will regularly forward to Council questions and comments received from our members and the public at large.

The following are just a few of the questions and comments, in no particular order:

*Many municipalities in Ontario flush their hydrants once a year. Why does CE do it twice?
*The recent 100% rating for the Belmont water system is puzzling. Didn’t the Walkerton commission recommend doing away with water supplied from wells? Why didn’t Belmont hook into the St. Thomas water system? The total capital costs to connect to the St. Thomas system would have been less than the many millions of dollars spent on the higher than initially guaranteed debenture rate of 2.9% for the Belmont system, annual upkeep, pumps, upgrades and retrofits etc … over the past and future years. CE water rates are among the highest in Ontario, the water rates in St. Thomas are lower!
*THE PROPOSED MUNICIPAL CAPITAL BUDGET: There is no financial justification or rational to purchase a Quint ladder fire truck for over $1.3 Million . There are no high buildings in CE. Will the Quint require a new fire hall to house it? Is this another legal or liability decision? Why does legal/liability advice take such a high toll on the CE budget? You’re being snowed much too often. Does Council have any fortitude?
CE bought a new fire truck in 2009 for over $300,000 . The older fire trucks in CE were as good as those in St. Thomas where they have full-time fire personnel. Other fire departments can’t wait to buy our old fire trucks because they are in great condition and have very low mileage/usage.

A sidewalk plough for $150,000!!! Why not contract out? Where’s the financial comparisons of each alternative?
Renovations to Port Stanley arena for $1,380,000 !! The arena is not a money maker. Is the total expenditure required in light of the Harbour project, Stork Club etc… ?
Painting the relatively new water tower in Port for $350,000 . Seems too soon. What was the spec for the tower when built, obviously not good enough. How many quotes??

*Lynhurst has one of the largest population and tax bases in CE. Why are there no parks, schools, fire stations, arenas or libraries in Lynhurst? Why are there two fire stations so close together (Port and Sparta)?
*CE does not spend enough on the downtown core in Port Stanley to generate business and tourism. The small budget of the BIA is a joke. The commercial tax rates are too high. When will CE get serious about the tourism potential in Port. The new Harbour plan won’t succeed if the merchants can’t afford to stay.
*CE has two members on the Elgin County council. Why don’t they control costs? Spending $30,000 on the new mini electronic sign in front of the county building is a waste and granting a rumoured $1,000,000 over five years to the St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital is also a waste of our tax dollars. Hospitals are Provincial jurisdiction, let the Province fund them. Seems odd that the Province takes away from the municipality in the OMPF yet the lower tiers will fund the Provincial domain. The City of London funded $12,000,000 to LHSC over ten years and now they’re being stiffed for the demolition of the South Street campus.
*Why is the 2009 operating water budget $1,358,670 over the 2009 year to date expenditures for ten months? And the 2010 budget is $2,017,921 over 2009 YTD expenditures? The differences can’t be the last two months of the year! Is CE creating reserves that are not required?

These are not all of the comments and questions received. Some could not be conveyed due to content.

The Municipality and the County must take an aggressive approach to controlling costs. CERA’s mandate is to observe and audit decisions taken by the municipal and county councils.
In advance of the upcoming Municipal election CERA will recommend candidates that best meet the Association’s objectives.

Terry E. Campbell
Central Elgin Ratepayers Association
P.O. Box 15, Port Stanley, ON N5L 1J4

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