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News / Editorials
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Next Municipal Election Critical
  by Francie Dennison  
 Transparency or Suppression
 So You Want It Published
 Frittering the Fund
 Next Municipal Election Critical 
 Unjustified Justifications
 Wake Up Part 2 and Have Your Say
 Conflicting Messages
 Heritage Conservation
 Grass Clippings Can Be Dangerous
 Nasty Comments from Municipality are Nothing New
 Reduced Consumption Does Not Reduce Bill
 No Paid Parking Here
 No Parking No Problem
 Not Like It Used To Be
 RFPs for Projects Led and Inspired by Seniors
 Stray Cats in Port Stanley
 What Is Wrong With This Picture
 Where Investing in Transit Can Take Us
 A Strong Rural Canada and Safe Food Supply
 Do Politicians Support Torturous Trapping
 Turning Against the Red
 What Phasing Out the Penny Means For You
 Ontario Wildlife at Risk from MNR Proposals

Whether you are in the 40 percent who vote in municipal elections or in the 60 percent who don't bother to vote, the outcome of your next municipal election will have a major impact on how much disposable income you have left after you put a roof over your head and that of your family, regardless of whether you rent or own your home.

The Asset Management Plan the province has required all municipalities to file by year end as a condition for grant funding is a clear indicator that the province is getting ready to require municipal property taxes be set at rates which will make municipal infrastructure funding self-sustaining, just as they did with the rates for water and wastewater systems a few years ago. Despite any protests we are bound to hear to the contrary, it is likely this requirement will become law shortly after the next provincial election.

This, in turn, means that, more than at any other time in the past, the competency of who you elect to your next and subsequent municipal councils will be critical to the percentage of your income that must be allocated to housing costs, whether you own or rent.

The move to self-sustaining municipal infrastructure funding is entirely reasonable, just as it was with water and wastewater systems, that those who use them pay the costs associated with that use. No reasonable person would argue that the logical economics of this is not the way to go; however, municipalities are currently in an infrastructure funding shortfall of anywhere from 4% to 12% (Taxes Could Go Up 4 Percent or More)and that is just for roads, bridges, culverts, water and wastewater systems. That funding deficit does not include arenas, parks, sidewalks, community centres, beaches, fire protection, police services, social services or community programs.

Ideally, housing costs should not consume more than a quarter of your income, but for most people today their total housing costs (mortgage or rent, condominium fees, property taxes, heat, hydro, water, sewer, insurance, parking, maintenance) consume at least 40% of their income. So, hypothetically speaking, if the county portion of your property tax rises 4%, and the education portion of your property tax rises 2%, and your municipality raises their operating costs portion of your tax bill only by the amount of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) increase but also increases by the percentage amount required to eliminate its infrastructure funding deficit, then your property tax bill will increase by a minimum of 11% to a high of 20%. Even if you're renting, your landlord will need to increase your rent to recoup these increased costs. Can you afford an 11% to 20% housing costs increase without a comparable offsetting income increase? What happens if your municipality cannot hold its operating costs increase to the CPI level?

As municipalities get legislated to move towards self-sustaining municipal infrastructure funding, the competence of who you elect to your municipal council will play a bigger and bigger role in how much disposable income you have left after you put a roof over your head and that of your family. Has the council candidate run a profitable and successful competitive mid to large size business dealing with annual budgets in excess of $2 million? If they have only run a small business with an annual budget of less than $500,000, then what is the graph of its growth chart and profitability over the last 10 to 20 years? If its growth has been stagnant and its net profitability has been less than $100,000 annually, how well does that lend to making the multi-million dollar budgetary decisions required by a municipal council?

Has the council candidate had a career funded from the public purse? This would include all municipal employees, all public servants at any and all levels of government, all military personnel, all fire and police personnel, pretty much all medical personnel (including doctors, nurses and administrators), all those involved in education (teachers, department heads, principals, superintendents, janitors, office personnel) and so on. For decades now, those controlling the purse strings of the public purse have acted like the taxpayer is a bottomless pit of money and simply raised taxes to cover their excessive/unnecessary/erroneous spending, and those being paid from the public purse and/or negotiating for payment from the public purse have had a similar bottomless pit attitude towards it. Can you afford one or more councillors who have never had to turn a profit or hold the line on spending in order to survive or remain competitive?

What about returning councillors, people who have previously served one or more terms on council? Are you happy with your current level of taxation, your current water and sewer rates, or is there room for improvement? Do the rate and taxation levels already threaten you financial ability to stay in your home? Do rent increases move you into the yellow or red line for becoming homeless? Is that returning council candidate claiming personal credit for achieving something good that was actually accomplished by the council as a whole and in which that candidate may or may not have voted in favour of it? Is your municipality facing significant and probably costly new challenges, and what kind and level of expertise are needed to meet those challenges?

If you return all, or a majority, of the councillors you already have on your municipal council, will that steer your municipality in the direction you want to see it go, or will it cause stagnation, or worse yet, regression? Will it hold the line on extravagant spending or ensure such wastefulness continues? Will electing a previous municipal employee to your council help or hurt; will it undermine the beneficial contribution of the employee who replaced them? Is your "old boys club" working for you or against you?

How you vote in the upcoming 2014 municipal election will have a major impact on your personal bottom line, whether you vote or don't vote, so what's it going to be - same old same old, or stepping up to the plate to take control of your own future? Think outside the box.

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