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City Budget 2015 Predicted Increase

Sunday, March 15, 2015   by: Mac Headrick

Last weekend we moved our clocks ahead one hour. The days are getting longer and hopefully temperatures will rise and melt away the remnants of this very long, cold winter. Every year at this time things get a little warmer at City Hall. It is budget time. In the next two months our local politicians will set the 2015 budget and establish this year’s tax rate. There is going to be so much posturing going on from the Councillors that I would recommend the city invite a few chiropractors to the meetings to address sore backs! I decided to use today’s column to list the factors I keep in mind as I follow the budget process. Of course you probably have a different perspective. That is fine and if inclined, please share.

  1. The number one priority of most politicians is to get re-elected. Therefore any decision made is based on how it affects that objective. If you had to name the most successful ward councilor in the history of our city I imagine many people would choose Frank Manzo. Mr. Manzo never participated in the budget process. He automatically voted against the final budget. Frank knew that taxes were not important to the average public. What mattered was that there was someone somebody could call to fix a pot-hole, collapsed culvert, or remove snow etc when these issues needed to be addressed.
  2. The first listed tax increase of 4.6% isn’t relevant. It is just there to set up the public. Eventually the final figure will be arrived around 2% and life will go on.
  3. Last year was a zero increase. Did anyone actually believe there was no connection between that figure and it being an election year? The two percent from 2014 was accounted for in 2013 and any shortfall will be added to this years taxes.
  4. Councilor Fata mentioned a zero percent wage increase for non-union staff. If this idea has some merit shouldn’t it be applied to all staff union or non-union? Of course this logic would take courage and intestinal fortitude. Over 90 million dollars is spent on salaries and benefits (2014). That’s a lot of money. More importantly (to our politicians) that’s a lot of voters.
  5. You will hear the phrase “setting priorities” a lot during the next three or four Council meetings. This is a relative term. What is a priority to you may not be the same to me. There will be trade-offs between the councillors.
  6. How much control does Council actually have over Sault Ste Marie’s 100 million plus budget? Council will spend hours debating whether Sault Ste Marie should pay $10,000 to belong to an association or support the Norgoma for another year. Is it realistic to expect 12 part-time Councillors to significantly affect the final budget?

The above is just my perspective.

As I see it the next few City Council meetings will probably present some fire works and political drama at its best. In the end, the 2015 tax increase will be 2.3%. There it is my prediction. Please share yours. 

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