Woolwich needs to get its budget priorities in order
Woolwich & Wellesley Township's Local Community Newspaper | Elmira, Ontario, Canada
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Woolwich needs to get its budget priorities in order

There’s been no mention of returning an expected windfall from Woolwich’s ownership stake in Waterloo North Hydro back to the residents, the very people constantly hit by increased taxes courtesy of the township and higher rates courtesy of the electrical utility.

A similar discussion last year saw Todd Cowan raise the possibility of a refund, though no one else on council saw fit to suggest the option. And, as taxpayers well know, nothing came of that idea. This time around, the mayor was quick off the mark in suggesting the money – an as-yet-unknown amount from the sale of the former headquarters on Northfield Drive – be funneled into projects such as a proposed skateboard park in Elmira.

A wait-and-see approach seems to be the consensus, however, with most of council fine with simply putting the cash into a reserve account until the township can make longer-term plans during the upcoming 2014 budget deliberations.

One thing is certain, though: council must resist the temptation to simply splurge, to go on a spending spree with what amounts to found money. And, clearly, tax relief should be high on the list.

It’s unlikely that a rebate such as the one Cowan mused about last year will happen, but lowering the tax hit on residents should always be top of mind at every level of government, particularly among elected officials.

We’re making less money even before we pay our taxes. Afterwards, we’re even more behind. Despite contributing ever-more to government coffers, we’re getting less in return – for tax-weary Canadians, that’s the real kicker. Simply put, we’re not seeing the benefits of having more money lifted from our wallets.

There’s a lesson in there for politicians who often fail to see the compounding effects of year-over-year tax increases that typically outstrip both inflation and real growth in the economy.

Instead of an administration exercising responsible handling of the public’s money, citizens have seen a steady stream of bureaucratic bloat.

It’s telling when council discusses the budget, there’s always talk of tax hikes or service cuts. What we need to see are the easy cuts with no impact on residents that can provide plenty of extra revenue that can be applied to the township’s infrastructure deficit. Reduced spending on the operating side will allow the municipality to focus on the priorities, hard services essential to the community, while stripping away the swelling bureaucracy and runaway salaries that steal away money from the productive part of the local economy.

Given the prevailing attitude, it’s not surprising that recent discussions about the hydro windfall haven’t included the infrastructure deficit that is trotted out when convenient, such as tacking on additional property taxes to build up reserve funds.

While overplayed, the need for infrastructure spending is indeed real. With another budget period on the horizon – and given past disappointments – now would be a good time to search for actual savings, starting with elimination of some staff positions. Factoring in the cost of salaries, benefits and pension liabilities, a couple of middling jobs would go a long way towards reallocating funds and reducing the tax burden. And those savings would be enjoyed year over year. The same would be true of wage freezes and rollbacks, though, as we’ve noted, such talk remains beyond the pale.

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