Earlier today, Christian Provenzano was turning down interview requests from reporters who wanted him to respond to new accusations from mayoral challenger Rory Ring.
Ring, on leave as chief executive officer of the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce, had issued a written statement indicating that the mayor would single-handedly raise taxes one per cent at tonight's City Council meeting.
The mayor didn't think that Ring's allegations about municipal garbage collection deserved any kind of response and he wasn't even planning to correct them when the matter was discussed tonight.
By the end of tonight's meeting, however, Provenzano had changed his mind.
He was now more than willing to respond.
"So far this campaign, Mr. Ring has spoken about taxes twice. Both times, what he said has been wildly inaccurate," Provenzano told SooToday.
"He either doesn't understand how municipal taxes work, or he's intentionally misrepresenting how municipal taxes work."
"It's very clear in all the staff reports that the cost of the garbage trucks would come from the reserve. The reserve is already part of the levy. So you're not increasing the levy to buy the trucks."
"We have a reserve every year where we accumulate funds to make these type of purchases."
"I'm very proud of City Council's decision not to fully privatize garbage collection, because had we fully privatized garbage collection, there would have been a small savings in the near term, but I think in the long term, it would have cost the municipality and taxpayer much more. I think that's a sign of leadership when you make a good long-term decision for the community without consideration for the short-term political wins."
"We have to really go back to Mr. Ring's math. The suggestion was that I was going to raise taxes tonight by one per cent. That's $1 million. There's no connection between that suggestion and reality."
"Taxes were not raised tonight, at all. Next meeting, when we talk about buying the garbage trucks, taxes will not be raised at all. Mr. Ring can continue to show the community that he either doesn't understand how taxes work or he doesn't care to represent things properly. That's how he'll choose to run his campaign. I'll choose to run my campaign in a very factual way and I'll continue to be honest with the community as I have been over the last four years."
Provenzano told us he looks forward to debating Ring face-to-face before the Oct. 22 election.
"It's a lot easier for Mr. Ring to send out a press release making allegations about my conduct. When he's sitting beside me, he's going to have a much more difficult time, because I'll be there to set the record straight. I'm open to and I welcome honest and informed debate but I won't participate in these misrepresentations. If somebody wants to make a misrepresentation about my conduct or my abilities or my ethics, then I'll certainly challenge that."
The following is the full text of Ring's news release, as issued today:
Mayor to raise your taxes another one per cent today
Ring promises to reverse costly decision
I urge you to watch tonight’s council meeting to see an example of how tax dollars are wasted.
We are about to spend $600,000 on garbage trucks that will cost us an extra $450,000 to operate over eight years.
One of the key elements of my platform in the mayoral campaign is that I won’t raise taxes.
Some feel it's not possible and could result in service cuts, but we know from the experience in other cities that it can be done.
To create more jobs in our city, we need be more competitive.
The decision by council to contract out garbage collection for only one-half the city but use city resources for the other half of the city is a perfect example of how we can do things better.
The staff report that the council is relying on, reasoned that if all of the garbage collection was contracted out, the city could possibly face prices increases in the future once the city no longer provided the service itself.
What did or will that decision cost you?
The difference between the contractor costs and the city costs is $55,000 per year for eight years.
That’s $450,000 more to keep the garbage in-house.
In addition, to modernize garbage pickup, the city is required to go out now and buy two new garbage trucks for $600,000.
Staying in the garbage business will cost you more than $1 million and in effect results in another one per cent tax increase.
The staff report does not show these numbers in clear statements but if a person digs a bit and does the math, it is clear that using an outside service provider would cost $1.18 million and using the city resources for one-half the service would cost $2.23 million.
If I were mayor, I would have guided council to ensure that first and foremost we save as much money as possible and lessen the burden on taxpayers.
At the end of the contract the city would not be held hostage because there are many contractors in the waste business who would welcome an opportunity to compete locally.
At minimum council has the ability to divide the contract between two service providers with contracts ending at different dates.
I would have encouraged council to take the savings that are available today and for the next eight years to avoid any tax increase to residents.
There have been several decisions like this over the last four years.
We need to change the way we make decisions and the way taxpayer money is spent.
I can promise with confidence, that taxes can be frozen for four years.
It takes common sense and fortitude.