NORM PUTTICK/Straight Talk
The City of Port Colborne has wondered if “bulk purchasing” can be done at the Region as “big bucks” can be saved.
Council several weeks ago froze industrial development charges for two years. In Niagara Falls the Casino operators have won a reduction of 50 per cent in their assessment that will cost the region about $6 million in taxes for 2013. A further pending appeal by the casinos could cost the region from 2004 a $54-million refund to the Casinos.
The bulk question has been referred to the Port Colborne CEO and he will also take it to the monthly meeting of all municipal CEOs, including the Region. That’s 13 in all. Lot of bulk there. If the idea is to save big bucks, here are a few ideas:
The DC freeze will be paid by other taxpayers, notably residential, if industries settle here or expansion takes place. Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati says the cut in casino assessment is “negative thinking” and “it passes the burden on to the rest of the taxpayers in the community.”
There is a way around this. One water utility. That is, one producer and deliverer of water recommended in a 10-year-old report that will save over 20 years about $100 million.
Note the word “save.” However the regional council keeps asking for further costly reports. The 2002 Berkley Report that was received and filed, with no action, recommended three cities for millions of dollar savings with the elimination of duplication and triplication of services in Niagara.
Recent discussion on governance have gone nowhere.
The Region has a “new” structure for economic development that receives $1.9 million to operate a staff of 16. There are also seven other offices spread among the municipalities plus a provincial office all doing the same thing. How bulky is this?
Bring it all together and using the word bulk and I am suggesting elected mayors have the power to offset any refunds to the casino and not pass cost to the taxpayer.
Three cities could take care of any bulk buying decisions. One city would be more savings.
Think about it. Elected officials in Niagara worry about income to run their municipalities yet renege on staff and consultant “make sense” recommendations to get Niagara Region in a sound financial position.
Mayors and CEOs can lead the way to have staff set up a water utility, one economic development office, one or three cities and user pay with 100 per cent of DCs.This for about $200 million in tax dollar savings last time I checked.
Bulk buying or combined services have been discussed the last 40 years since advent of regional government. Police, garbage, water production, gasoline and winter salt to name just a few save tax dollars. All taxpayers need now is some action from councillors to complete the “bulk” purchasing with reformed governance.
I am confident we will see amalgamation of municipal administrations within the next five years. Sustainability of regional services will demand it. We have one police force. Why not one fire department?
The CEOs report to Port Colborne council should start by saying the real “big bucks” savings can be achieved without any bulk buying.