The law of diminishing returns is about to impact ratepayers

My how time flies by when you’re dialing for dollars.
It’s been more than two years since council had a professional appraisal from fundraising chairman Hilary Vaughan on the status of the Timken Centre capital campaign, however that will be rectified Monday (and not Dec. 21 as mentioned in this corner last week) when treasurer Bill Day reveals the grim reality of contributions to date.
As an update for readers, the last accounting to council was back in August of 2007 when former parks and recreation director Kent McVittie advised little progress at that point with $2.6 million in cash or pledges on the books, but with just $1.37 million actually collected.
On the expense side, more than $135,000 had been spent, a figure projected to grow to $214,000.

When council meets on Monday, they will learn of that $2.6 million noted in 2007, $37,000 has been cancelled by donors for various reasons, leaving a revised total of $2,568,512.
Of that amount, $1.88 million has been received so far, leaving about $690,000 to be recovered. Some of those pledges extend to 2015.
Now, here’s where things get a little dicey. To quote Day, “despite ongoing collection efforts, $216,900 of pledges are overdue.”
More than $80,000 of that extending back more than two years.
As we understand it, some of that money is for banners and other advertising inside the $12.3 million Timken Centre. If firms and services are reneging on their pledges, why are their advertising messages allowed to remain visible?
In essence, city ratepayers may be footing the bill to promote the goods and services of businesses who are lax in their financial commitments.
And what message does this send to those good firms and individuals who have lived up to their pledges?
While not included in Day’s report, are the capital campaign expenses now in excess of the $250,000 mark? That’s another amount that will need to absorbed by taxpayers.
As for the long-term pledges, both Day and Mayor Cliff Barwick warned of the law of diminishing returns back in 2007.
“Statistics I have,” advised Barwick, “show once you have a pledge lasting more than three years, the odds diminish quickly after that you’ll get 100 per cent of the pledge. I’m not being pessimistic, I’m just stating a fact.”
The truth of which will be laid bare Monday by the city’s treasurer.
And while we’re trippping back in time, it was Ald. Terry Shackelton who, in 2005, made the firm pledge he would never support construction of the twin-pad facility if ratepayers were saddled with more than $3 million in expenses.
If only the final tally was indeed in that ballpark.
Some time ago in this corner we questioned the number of agenda items appearing each week under the category of unfinished business.
There are occasions when these reports outnumber the actual business to be dealt with that evening.
Well, one issue in the high-priority category during the run-up to the 2006 municipal vote is about to be de-listed as soon as Monday.
That’s the proposed partnership between the city and Faith Baptist Church for a playground on church property. City staff undertook construction of the requested walkway between Penhale Avenue and the church last summer, but there are no talks ongoing to further develop the site.
So, city staff recommends the proposal be struck from the record.
And to think this became quite the emotional issue during the campaign for mayor, but fell off the radar screen when a certain individual failed to gain re-election.
My, how priorities change.
Ah, for Christmas past when jolly Bob McCaig would direct his fleet of trucks and drivers to pick up the ragged remnants of what were once regal holders of ornaments and hand-crafted decorations.
The new reality dictates you must lug that mass of shedding needles over to the drop-off depot at the city public works yard at 100 Burwell Rd.
Hours of operation are Jan. 5-8, 7:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m.
“We are essentially turning into organic waste collectors of leaves and trees. The cost to the city is not insignificant.”
John Dewancker, director of environmental services, on why curbside pickup of firs and pines is no longer a reality.
City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may emailed to:

One thought on “The law of diminishing returns is about to impact ratepayers

    If historically 15% of pledges go uncollected, then the planning/budgeting process conducted should have reflected that reality, so if $2.6M had been pledged you could predict that $390K would not be collected. In accounting jargon, this would be an application of the law of conservatism. Apparently the mayor has some “statistics”, so what allowance for uncollectable pledges was factored in to the Timken Centre budget? Another accounting practice recognizes the time value of money; when pledges are spread over a 3 to 5 year time span, the dollars to be collected should be discounted to their net present value. It would not surprise me if neither of those two actions were taken.
    In this age of transparency why are the “pledgers” of the $2.6M not identified in the treasurer’s report? It is understood that situations change for people/businesses; they lose interest in a project, their financial position changes or perhaps they leave/shut down. However, that should not preclude the information from being made public. Who made these overdue and outstanding pledges totalling $216,900?
    As for the law of diminishing returns, look no further than the size of council.

    There was a letter by a Grade 11 high school student during the last election that appeared in the T-J. He made an astute observation regarding the behaviour of this council;
    “Alderman running around making promises to make St. Thomas a better place to live, debating in the chamber, canvassing and posting signs on lawns and getting good public relations by going to church. With this sudden turning on of political engines during election time it makes us wonder where these men and women were for the last three years”
    A frequent declaration heard in chambers “we have been talking about this for years” – seems they’ve got the talking part nailed down but as for action well that’s another story. As Herbert Hoover said “Words without actions are the assassins of idealism.”
    With this mayor, seeing is believing; after he got elected promises and priorities fell by the wayside like water off a duck’s back – job plan, electoral reform, heritage preservation (Alma College) …and of course the pièce de résistance – “And that’s what I’m promising people, open government and accountability.”

    That’s not a lie, it’s a terminological inexactitude. Also, a tactical misrepresentation. ~ Alexander Haig

    Bill Sandison
    Advocate for a Better Municipal Government
    STR8TALK in St. Thomas


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s