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Chamber proposes new spending controls ahead of budget

Friday, April 11, 2014   by: Michael Purvis

The Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce says it has made specific recommendations to the city ahead of Monday’s budget deliberations, voicing concern about spending levels and reliance on provincial funding.

The chamber is calling for “a new philosophy of taxation and spending controls,” said Mark Barsanti, chamber president, in an e-mail responding to a SooToday editorial earlier today.

“Our position targets the need to increase our municipal assessment, grow our population, decrease our dependency on the provincial government and improve our age imbalance,” said Barsanti.

City council is set to hold its annual budget meeting on Monday with a projected tax increase which was updated Friday to now translate in a boost of 1.35 percent for the average homeowner by taking $1.4 million from last year’s surplus.

Barsanti said the chamber sent a position paper directly to Mayor Debbie Amaroso but has not released it publicly.

He declined to release the document on Friday saying the chamber wanted to wait until the mayor has had a chance to comment on it, but he did release highlights that offer an assessment of the city’s current financial state of affairs that diverges from the municipality’s own.

In a message to mayor and council in the budget meeting agenda issued Friday, Joe Fratesi, the city’s CAO, called tax levels in the current proposed budget “quite low” in comparison to other regional cities and said the document provides a “very high level of service” efficiently and effectively.

The CAO also cautions councillors that further cost-cutting would mean a reduction in services, while noting public surveys and input sessions have shown little appetite for service cuts in the community.

“We certainly can trim our budget, if that is the wish of council,” writes Fratesi. “However, that will involve the cutting of services either in their entirety or by a reduction to the levels we currently provide. These are decisions that council would have to make and they would not be easy decisions as every service we currently do provide is relied on or expected by any given number of our taxpayers.”

Barsanti released “highlights” of the chamber position paper, among them the chamber’s concern over what it sees as the city’s reliance on the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund, which is being reduced by $985,000 this year.

“The chamber is concerned that this level of reliance on a hand-out from the province leaves our community vulnerable to changes in the provincial political landscape and / or to changes to provincial fiscal policy,” wrote Barsanti.

The local chamber will ask the Ontario Chamber of Commerce at its annual general meeting here next month to support a resolution asking the province to revamp the OMPF.

Among other points Barsanti highlighted are the city’s projected spending increase this year of $2.3 million, despite the OMPF funding cut, and spending increases that he says total 22 million over the last seven years and far outstrip inflation.

“Our rate of spending growth has far exceeded our growth in property assessment and our growth in population over the last decade. This is an unsustainable set of circumstances as more and more tax dollars are being expected of the same taxpayers and the same properties,” wrote Barsanti.

This appears to run counter to the city staff assessment of the budget situation.

“We continue to be very confident that the property taxes paid in Sault Ste. Marie by the average homeowner for municipal services remain amongst the lowest in the province for cities our size,” Fratesi wrote to council in a summary of the budget. “We are equally confident that the level of services provided here is among the highest.”

Budget deliberations begin at 4:30 p.m. in council chambers.

Comments
10
Note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of SooToday.com. If you see an abusive post, please click the link beside the post to report it.
atoz 4/11/2014 11:50:26 PM Report

Move to
Goulais river, its close to town, beautiful and cheap taxes. The roads here are great. Wont loose your car in a pothole here. What is the city spenting tax payers money on, certainly not the roads.
pope29 4/11/2014 11:56:54 PM Report

Loose Spenting is a problem all over the world. Seriously!!
David Poluck 4/12/2014 7:34:43 AM Report

“Our rate of spending growth has far exceeded our growth in property assessment and our growth in population over the last decade. This is an unsustainable set of circumstances as more and more tax dollars are being expected of the same taxpayers and the same properties,” wrote Barsanti.

“We continue to be very confident that the property taxes paid in Sault Ste. Marie by the average homeowner for municipal services remain amongst the lowest in the province for cities our size,” Fratesi wrote to council in a summary of the budget. “We are equally confident that the level of services provided here is among the highest

From March 30th article...http://www.saultstar.com/2012/03/30/at-odds-over-taxes

Reports prepared by Ontario's Ministry of Finance show that the City of Sault Ste. Marie receives more funding per household than other large Northern Ontario cities, yet the city's average residential property taxes are among the highest of those communities.

Orazietti also argues that since Sault Ste. Marie receives the most government funding of any Northern city, the Sault should not have one of the highest tax bills.

Fratesi disagrees and charges that the provincial figures do not provide a full accounting of tax rates and assessments and how taxes are calculated.

I'm confused...are we or aren't we?


David Poluck 4/12/2014 7:51:01 AM Report

Orazietti's statistics show that Sault Ste. Marie taxes are among the highest of the Northern Ontario communities.

His figures show that taxes on an residential average valued home of $100,000 in Sault Ste. Marie were $1,703.37, higher than Greater Sudbury, which was $1,363.31 or about $340.06 less than the Sault.

North Bay residential property tax bills on the same $100,000 value home was $1,441.30, or $262.07 less than Sault Ste. Marie.

Thunder Bay residents tax bills were comparable with homeowners paying only $11.54 more than Saultites and Timmins homeowners paid $122.83 more than Sault Ste. Marie homeowners with the same house value.

For several years, city staff has boasted about having the highest level of service for its residents and the lowest residential tax rates.

Orazietti, a former city councillor, said he asked the Ministry of Finance to compare the figures in each of the Northern Ontario communities using MPAC's average assessments and the municipality's tax rates.
keeper 4/12/2014 8:46:56 AM Report

We are getting a snow job from city hall. They are telling us what we want to hear, that our taxes are lower than most cities, but in reality its the total opposite.

I find it strange that the ratepayers association with all the drum beating about city issues,has been silent on this issue.

Our MPP told the city a year ago that it was not calculating its taxes the same as the rest of the province, which was dismissed by the city.

David Poluck 4/12/2014 8:59:47 AM Report

The latest article...

http://www.saultstar.com/2014/04/11/community-growth-helps-city-budget
David Poluck 4/12/2014 9:03:06 AM Report

Keeper,
SSMAR...Chamber...individuals all pounding...http://www.saultstar.com/2014/04/11/community-growth-helps-city-budget

Who's on lead guitar?
sweetthing 4/12/2014 9:49:47 AM Report

they all have full pockets that's why nothings being done no tax payer money left the roads are very bad I feel bad for anyone who drives on them pot holes big enough to lose a car in maybe its time for them to share the wealth of Sault Ste. Marie things were not this bad 2 yrs ago REALLY!!!!!!!!!!!
guard1 4/12/2014 10:19:59 AM Report

A 1.35% tax increasee is still a tax increease that pensioners on fixed incomes cannot afford. Its not a one time thing, we will pay this increase every year from now on. What is wrong with shooting for zero perecent and forcing the city to be more diligent in their spending habits. After all if the taxpayers that are on fixed incomes have to make due with no inreases why cant the city make do with the revenue it brings in without tax increases. Give the taxpayer a break once in a while. Change is always good and I know how my family and I are going to vote in this years election. This years election is when the taxpayers can voice their frustration.
frnlak 4/12/2014 12:28:11 PM Report

Joe will still be there.
Comments
10
Note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of SooToday.com. If you see an abusive post, please click the link beside the post to report it.
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