Hard cap decreased flexibility to provide needed services
After an 11 hour marathon budget meeting, Kitchener City Council reduced this year’s tax increase from 1.17% to 0.99%. Given how little difference that reduction made to taxes, Council could have used their time more efficiently and maintained or expanded services by showing greater flexibility. While keeping to the 1% inflation rate in Ontario was a stated objective by a number of councillors, I’m not sure that it needed to be a hard cap.
Use of funds from Aud paid parking
I was disappointed to learn that the Aud’s parking revenues are to be used to pay for bylaw enforcement. Intentionally or not that decision sends a signal that the current level of parking on residential streets will continue to be greater than prior to the recent expansion–as will the same level of problems requiring enforcement. It’s too bad that those funds were not directed, as originally intended, to reduce the need for Aud parking on residential streets.
Unfortunately, it appears that Council saw the proposal as an opportunity to reduce a deficit in funding bylaw enforcement rather than trying to reduce or eliminate the problems that require enforcement.
Full steam ahead for new advertising revenues
Council also decided to proceed with the proposal to expand advertising opportunities. I hope that achieving the specific revenue targets is not seen as being more important than getting the process and priorities right.
Enhanced preventative tree maintenance gets axed
The example that stands out for me as a service that suffered as a result of unnecessarily achieving a 1% tax increase was the proposal to enhance preventative tree maintenance. The staff proposal to enhance this service got axed.
Given the amount of money spent in 2013 to deal with damage to trees–not to mention loss of hydro and damages to hydro lines, etc. The proposed enhancement was prudent. Putting it off for another year is a false economy should we need experience more extreme weather as we did in July, April and December 2013.
Sure keeping the tax increase to 1% sounds great in an election year but was it really a decision in the best interests of the citizens of Kitchener?