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Budget a good first step but subsidy still worrying, says chamber

Tuesday, April 15, 2014   by: Staff



City budget is a step in the right direction - chamber

The Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce is pleased that its voice was heard during the 2014 city budget deliberations.

“The chamber, for the first time in recent memory, delivered a multi-faceted position paper on the budget," said Mark Barsanti, chamber president. 

“There were several e-mails exchanged between myself, the mayor and some councillors last week and throughout the weekend. I believe our concerns were taken to heart and the budget reflects our concerns to an extent.”

Asked how the budget could be improved, Barsanti replied, “The Chamber would like to see a stronger emphasis on making the budget a tool to improve the level of private sector development and private sector job growth -- a more long term strategic use of the budget process, as opposed to focusing so heavily on the annual levy increase.  We would like to see the City adopt a set of goals that keeps spending in line with the natural growth of the city and the rate of inflation.”

The chamber would like the city to begin the process of developing a strategy to significantly reduce our dependency on the provincial subsidy it receives of more than $17 million. 

The chamber believes that this level of dependence on Queens Park leaves Sault Ste. Marie far too vulnerable to future changes in provincial policy.

According to Barsanti, one of the biggest challenges still not dealt with is the disparity between local business tax rates and the business tax rates in other cities. 

He notes that it’s not a question of giving business a break, but rather creating a fiscal climate that will encourage outside investors to see our community as a more competitive place to do business.

When pressed about how that can happen, Barsanti replied, “Our city does a good job of managing its budget—the surpluses are evidence of that, but there isn’t any organization in the country with $180 million budget that is running at 100% efficiency. We need to do a deep dive. We need to start the process of looking at what we do as well as how we do things. Perhaps we need to provide incentives for meaningful savings. Further, we have to ask ourselves whether or not we would be willing to forego some levels of some services in exchange for a policy direction aimed at making our city more palatable for investors to choose our city over others they may be considering. We need more private investment here to grow our tax base and make the city more affordable for everyone -- I am confident that the mayor and council are on the same page with respect to that goal.”


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mallet 4/15/2014 2:34:46 PM Report

"in line with the natural growth and rate of inflation" What a great idea, however what happens if instead of growth there's a decline and inflation gets rampant, then what happens?? I do so wish we lived in the perfect world that business and councils think we do, I would really be happy...
rockbanger 4/15/2014 2:38:19 PM Report

With the province putting $17,000,000 per year in the city coffers...

How can anyone call this a balanced budget?

Actually we are running in the red and rely on the Ontario Welfare system to give us this so called "balanced budget"..

Send the number crunchers back to school.
IgnorantNortherner 4/15/2014 2:53:30 PM Report

rockbanger we should tell the province we can't find a place to use the 17M so they should just keep it.

"Thanks, but no thanks!" we'll tell 'em
Ski-Dude 4/15/2014 3:01:07 PM Report

Strongly agree with "We need to do a deep dive. We need to start the process of looking at what we do as well as how we do things." Thank you Chamber!

Long overdue! Ever wonder why city hall has non-transparent windows? These are highly paid professionals and they have to be "nudged" to be transparent and ethical? You'll find a higher percent of that coming from a kid taking your order at McD's!

Surpluses are excellent when they come from honest improvements. These are true "wins" and can easily be earmarked for reinvestment. However, I don't get the warm and fuzzy this is how the surpluses are being created. Shame on city hall and the church of math Joe preachs (as sketchy as Dis-Grace street!)
Great news 4/15/2014 9:20:58 PM Report

Finally some GREAT news and still reading negative remarks. wow
S.M.A.R.T. 4/15/2014 9:43:16 PM Report

Great News. Comments are not negative, just realistic. A city with a true amd real surplus has nothing of critical value left to spend its money on. Now if you believe that this is the case here, then all I can say is dream on.
I'm In 4/15/2014 9:54:36 PM Report

We as a people that live in the province of Ontario pay the harmonized sales tax of 13% on just about everything we purchase which 8% goes to the Ontario coffers. So let me see the Chamber of Commerce wants the city not to depend on the subsidy from provincial coffers to operate. Are business owners like Mark Barsanti of CTC not going to charge the 8% on everything we purchase at his store and all other chamber business owners in this city as well, if that is the case then the city won't get the subsidy to operate and we as municipal tax payers will get yearly municipal tax increases for the city to operate which will mean less spending at the Chamber Members businesses.
fatafr 4/15/2014 11:13:09 PM Report

A few years ago, I did a comparison between SSM and Elliot lake and I found that on a $100,000 of assessment, SSM residential taxes were about $2000 while Elliot Lake residential taxes were $4000. Why ? Simple; Elliot Lake no longer had the 2 mines and thus, had a mayor reliance on the residential tax base. Sudbury is no different; it has a far greater commercial, industrial tax base than SSM and thus, Sudbury has less reliance on the residential taxpayer.

A large department "box" store, like Lowes or Home Depot, pays property taxes equivalent to what 300-400 new bungalows would pay. Sudbury has many of these large box stores and thus, these alone represent a large portion of the tax base. Of course, Sudbury's industrial tax base is huge.

So, SSM must continue to put strong demands on the EDC to be aggressive and bring more commercial, but more importantly, more industrial investments to our City. As this happens, then the EDC is doing the job that I believe it's suppose to do, first and foremost.

We don't need this static between Orazietti and Fratesi. It serves no good purpose for the taxpayers. But, one thing is clear, and that is that we must find more cost efficiencies and staffers must be held accountable for their actions and in-actions. From caseworkers at Social Services to staff at the EDC, we need to continue to expect positive returns our our invested tax dollars.

The EDC receives about 1.6 million in tax dollars. I personally expect to see our tax base increased and that should be the EDC's primary focus. Industrial, most definitely the more important; commercial investment will automatically follow. Plain and simple.
harry dick 4/15/2014 11:34:22 PM Report

to fatafr: I agree with your statement that we need INDUSTRIAL COMPANIES to come to the Sault. These are the good paying jobs with benefits and pensions , so we are not paying pensions out of our taxes, in the form of welfare. There are a lot of people in this city that are available for work at good paying jobs , a lot of them with post secondary education .It is fine to have tourism jobs for the students and retirees , but we need something like a vehicle assembly plant or automotive parts manufacturing plant in the Sault. We should be beating the bushes offering incentives for companies to re-locate here.
Meow 4/16/2014 7:54:41 AM Report

I watched the budget. Yes,I am a very boring woman. lol Actually I have an accounting degree and find this terribly interesting. Mayor Deb really struggled that night. I would say that budgets are definitely not her cup of tea. At the beginning her and two other Councillors fought for the the staff proposed tax increase. She really did not seem to understand what the various Councillors were saying or proposing. Nor did she comprehend what the CAO or what the Director of Finance was arguing. In the end she followed Council for the first time instead of the CAO and voted for what I will call the Sheehan 0% option. Which in my opinion is the most responsible and has the greatest results.
Prouddipper67 4/16/2014 8:08:35 AM Report

I think what you are really saying is we need more results from our staff and the EDC. You are right. But it starts with council. They have to set the goals and expectations with senior staff. To attract commercial or industrial taxpayers council has to do its part. It must make us more comparable from a taxation point of view. Council failed to do that. Don't blame staff if they are trying to sell a $5 can for $8 and nobody buys it! Council is AFRAID to talk about this because it will mean cuts at the city and cuts to services. The problem is that JF is a paid employee but his boss- council- is not strong enough to make him do what needs to be done.
As for friction between JF and DO, council is the boss. Tell your employee to stay out of the press. If any one should be saying anything its M DA. But she knows it's all smoke. JF has been saying for years that taxes are cheaper here because we get more house for the same money compared to other cities. Well maybe our houses are cheaper because the taxes are so damn high sellers can't get more money for them. Or maybe because taxes are so high growth has been stagnated and there is no new jobs coming online to pay for the houses! TheONLY fair and proper comparison between cities is taxes per 100,000 of assessment. And on that score my friends we are WAY in the back of the pack. It's time council took the city back or else we need to take council back. Decades of no growth and decades more if somebody doesn't step up.
guard1 4/16/2014 8:28:43 AM Report

Does anyone know who the 2 councilors were that sided with Amoroso and Fratesi in favour the tax increase? The taxpayers need to know who they all are. Even with a surplus they still wanted to apply a tax increase. Shame on these 2 councilors and the mayor to favor a tax increase.
David Poluck 4/16/2014 8:50:57 PM Report

I would have liked to have seen the numbers worked out for presentation and review of both the pros and cons of a 0% property tax v.s 1.35% before there was a vote.

The old carpenter adage comes to mind...measure twice cut once.

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