St. Catharines has made some important infrastructure upgrades over the last several years. As one of the St. Patrick’s Ward City Councillors, I have voted for the vast majority of these upgrades; I believe they are necessary to the overall growth of our community. With these spending measures in place, though, I believe we need to find different ways to fund the debt and keep our community growing.
My commitment to hold the line on taxes stems from this – while I recognize the need to pay for the services we currently have, I believe there are ways to find efficiencies in how our city government operates. At a recent Council meeting, our CAO Dan Carnegie presented a number of ways to cut up to 2 million dollars from the Operating Budget over the next 3 years. This was done through a process of finding and making incremental improvements to how the different departments work. His report only dealt with a small subsection of City departments; if rolled out over the entire organization, I believe that there are more savings to be found, and passed on to taxpayers.
In addition to this, the City has recently undergone the development of a new Asset Management plan. In the past, the City’s understanding of the buildings it owned and the costs associated with keeping and maintaining those buildings were not understood. With the creation of this plan, Councillors and Staff will begin to understand where the biggest costs are, and how to mitigate them. It also presents an opportunity for Council to sell off assets that are not being used effectively by the City, so that private investors can take on the costs associated with running those buildings. The belief is that those private owners can also find more productive uses for those spaces.
Going through this process will allow the City to get rid of assets that it no longer needs, and can’t afford to maintain; another opportunity to take some costs off the books.
We need to look at City government differently than we have in the past; there are opportunities to find savings that can be passed on to taxpayers, and ways to provide services and run buildings that can lead to long term benefits to St. Catharines. The next Council needs to be willing to look for those new solutions, and follow the lead of communities that have already taken some of these steps.
I sincerely hope the voters of St. Patrick’s Ward return me to Council so that I can pursue these new ideas.