Posted: Aug 31, 2012, 12:03 AM
Join Date: Mar 2006
The CCPA Alternative Municipal Budget
Read this if you dare:
In Thursday's Herald, Marilla Stephenson rightly gave it a complete roasting:
Park yourself way out past the dandelions in the farthest corner of left field. Then drive — scratch that, take the bus — for a half-day trip even wildly farther to the left.
You still wouldn’t reach the milk-and-honey fantasyland of the alternative budget proposed for Halifax Regional Municipality by the local office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
It is fine that the document raises the hackneyed argument about charging income taxes to pay for municipal property services. We are going to be hearing about that for some time to come.
I even broadly agree with a number of concerns raised in the report, especially the acknowledgement that regional council has become dysfunctional, that election spending needs better controls and that new ways must be found to generate efficient spending by municipal government.
But our areas of agreement part ways soon thereafter.
The report calls for $158 million in new spending but offers no meaningful spending reductions. And, by the way, the municipal debt should be higher because interest rates are low.
Much of the report is based on the premise that Halifax should no longer pay $114 million in mandatory costs to the province for education, housing and justice services. Why? Well, because that is an area of provincial jurisdiction. Why should property taxpayers shoulder such a burden?
But the report then goes on to outline the creative options for directing that money into other areas of social spending — most of which also happen to be under the funding jurisdiction of the province.
Heck, there are even a few items that clearly move into federal territory, such as English-as-a-second-language funding. The training would be delivered at local libraries.
The location sounds good, but is this an item that should be paid out of property taxes?
No? Well, how about better daycare? Parenting services? Housing? How about the women’s gender equality action plan?
Remember the past few years of budgets, when council members and senior Halifax bureaucrats tried to sell taxpayers on small increases or flat levels in tax “rates,” studiously ignoring the huge increases in property assessments that meant most people were paying more in taxes, year after year?
That same old song echoes through this document, along with complaints about the tax cap the province brought in to protect beleaguered property taxpayers from huge annual assessment jumps.
Nope, we simply aren’t paying enough in taxes. So the “alternate budget” is calling for a four per cent surtax on our provincial income taxes to the tune of
$50 million a year.
The rest of the revenue gap to fund new services that would enhance areas such as “public safety” would be paid by cancelling the widening of Bayers Road, for instance.
If any of the authors own a car, they may try coming into Halifax on the 102 Highway during morning rush hour in September, then experiencing the thrill of slamming on the brakes at full speed to avert a collision in traffic gridlock as the highway becomes Bayers Road.
That significant highway danger, which has gone unchecked for years by a council without the political courage to update a sadly inadequate, out-of-date main artery, may provide a small lesson in “public safety.”
Other funding gaps can be filled by hammering business owners with such delightful items as rent freezes, vacant lot taxes (if you don’t build in two years, you get taxed as if you had), and a commercial-parking-spot tax for malls.
Oh, I must not forget the $10-million fund that will be created by penalizing commercial building owners based on the energy-efficiency of their building.
There is no mention of the cost to administer such an environmental scorecard, much less any appreciation for the impact it would have among the owners of the older real estate in the downtown cores of Halifax and Dartmouth.
And if you want to build an R-1 structure outside the serviced areas in the urban-suburban parts of the municipality, be prepared to pay a $30,000 premium penalty. Talk about driving away homeowners; I can hear the cheers in Hants County from here.
It is hard to take this “budget” seriously because it is so lacking in sober second thought in so many areas. A debate is needed about municipal taxation and tax reform, but the centre has missed a great opportunity to provoke a meaningful discussion with this unrealistic vision of a municipal budget.
But my favorite part of that piece was an entry in the online comments section about our own Waye Mason:
by roy rogers | August 30, 2012 - 8:30am New
Waye Mason is also one of the authors of this nonsense
Amongst the list of authors is the wannabe councillor for the south end Waye Mason. I bet Sue Uteck is happy to see he gave his time to the tax-grabbing 80 pages of nonsense.