Letter To The Mayor and All City Councillors

First of all let me start by saying that I do not envy you the monumental tasks that you are facing in the coming months, and years, of your Administration.
I watched with some interest the last televised council meeting, at which there was prolonged discussion regarding the leasing of the Loretto Convent for the purpose of relocating the Guelph Civic Museum. I must say that in some quarters this seems to be an emotionally charged topic. I would also say that while it was suggested that some of the Councillors spoke eloquently on the subject in my humble opinion it was almost as though some of them were more interested in the sound of their own voices. Perhaps Council could put a time limit, as well as the number of occasions, that any one Councillor could speak on any topic. What I heard was much more of what they had already expounded on previously.
I will get more to the point of this writing. You, the Council, are faced with a myriad of costly projects and frankly from what I have heard and read you really have no concrete idea as to what the total costs of these projects come to. I will tell you that I know what I am talking about when it comes to the subject of proper budgeting. I served as the Chairman of the Markham Hydro Electric Commission for five of the seven years I sat on the Commission and I was a Senior Executive Officer of one of Canada’s largest Banks. Suffice it to say I have spent a life time doing budgets.
It seems logical to me that what you must do is to prioritize the major projects, find out the costs to complete these and then determine how you will be able to fund same. My assumption, right or wrong, is that most of the projects that we continually read about are long-term Capital projects, which require debenture funding. This is all fine and dandy; however, the question that surfaces is how do we properly fund these while not overloading the taxpayers with unwarranted debt. You people are elected for a term of four years, while the debt retirement may be anywhere from ten to twenty years. There are obviously projects that need to be done and there are those that it would be nice to have done and you must be judicious in your decisions as to which we undertake and when. Simply stated the debt retirement comes on the backs of the residents and they can only absorb so much.
Councillor Kovach seems to be on the right track when she says we have so much on our plate at the moment in terms of Capital requirements. This is precisely the reason for my saying you MUST prioritize these and future Capital needs. She cites the new bus transfer facility, Baker Street parking facility, south end fire facility, our waste management problems, the MRI machine for Guelph General Hospital, and money lost from the downtown parking meters. These are all on top of the cost of the museum relocation. We can also probably add the severances paid to the outgoing COO and the CFO. This does not even include the proposed Library relocation. Nowhere have I heard or read of the estimated costs of all of these projects. I will also go so far as to say that with most municipalities the final costs usually come in well above the original estimates.
I know that this comment will probably make the hair on the back of your necks stand straight up, but if you simply go ahead with out the due respect to your constituents then you simply have absolutely no idea of the rudiments of basic economics.
It may well be that some of the above will need to be shelved, or at least prioritized in a practical sense of order. You may well argue that we have a good credit rating within the investment community, something I am in no position to debate, however, should we load the City with too great a debt load then our bonds may be regarded as junk status. It appears, rightly or wrongly, that we are wanting to do all of the right things, but perhaps we are looking to do them in the wrong fashion. I am not aware, as you do not seem to publish this information, that we have a five year revolving strategic Capital Program. My previous experience demanded this not only for yourselves, but also for those following you.
Please do not take offence to this writing as it is not intend to do this; however, we all know that our population, while growing, has many seniors whose incomes are pretty well fixed. I have seen my Municipal Taxes increase from $2,012. in 1999 to $3,472 in 2007, or approximately 70%. Incidentally I have not included the Educational Tax as it has been pretty well stagnant over the same period. I am not crying the blues over this increase as I think I can well afford it; however, there are many seniors in this City who probably are not as fortunate as myself.
In closing I will just say that you are elected to represent all the people and not only those who have nothing more than self serving interests. Like I said at the start you have monumental decisions to make in the coming months let us be assured that they are well thought our and properly reasoned.                  FM