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FORUM: Revenue, revenue, revenue and the lack thereof (Aug. 2022)

August 17th, 2022 · No Comments

Why is city council afraid of getting what the city needs to deliver services?

By Mike Layton

By the time this reaches your doorsteps, council will have completed our last legislative cycle before the election period begins, and the agenda is as busy as ever. Top of mind for me is continuing to work toward correcting the service deficiencies many residents have been noticing as the weather has warmed and people are engaging with our public spaces and services.

Access to water and public toilets remains a primary issue in our parks, and the inability of the city to hire enough lifeguards to patrol all our pools has been challenging. 

These problems are not unfixable; in fact, the solution to both is straightforward. 

We need to increase our service standards, invest in our public infrastructure to expand availability, and pay our staff living wages. 

It is not a matter of people working harder. The late and delayed openings and early closures are a symptom of a budget that does not treat the needs of its residents as a priority.

Parks and pools are not alone. Many residents are frustrated with the timelines involved while waiting for the city to address noise concerns, forestry issues, road safety (and implementing subsequent interventions), and a lack of shelter space. These are just the issues I am contacted most often about.

Lately, the mayor has been touting delays to infrastructure projects if other levels of government do not come through with funding related to the necessary pandemic and public health measures the city has in place. 

While I am in full agreement, we must have government share the costs of keeping people safe in the pandemic. 

There is so much more council could do to prevent these rainy-day scenarios, and it starts with seriously evaluating our revenues and our ability to deliver and increase the services people want and need.

Council has continuously kicked the can down the road on this. 

We have not implemented new revenue sources in over a decade (despite my yearly attempt to reinstate the vehicle registration user fees). 

We have kept property taxes below the level required to maintain service levels set when we were a smaller city and we have shown no serious willingness to address the gaps this has created, both in hiring within the public service and the resultant services that provides. This is not a new issue. 

Every city manager who has left the job since I started here at city hall has told us we need to better address our revenue sources. We take in barely enough to perform the status quo, and we will have trouble should emergencies arise.

Many of you may be aware that our current city manager is planning to step away from the job this summer, and I have been asked to participate in the hiring process for a new city manager. 

Ensuring the top of the civil service is dedicated to ensuring all city divisions are funded appropriately and has an eye to expansion and improvement of services is my top priority. 

The status quo is not working for many people; we cannot accept someone new who is content with the way things are.

Mike Layton is city councillor for Ward 11, University–Rosedale.


Tags: Annex · Opinion