Some thoughts on “We are the ones we’re waiting for”- Part 2

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by Stephen Hammond

A recent article in the Times by the Kemptville Business Improvement Area [BIA] talks about some of the ideas that the BIA would like to implement in the downtown of Kemptville.

The BIA (Business Improvement Area) is a provincial government regulated organization and comprises a specific geographic area of the downtown of Kemptville. If more than two thirds of the businesses in the geographic area of the BIA want to participate, all the remaining businesses have to participate. So it’s a ⅔ voluntary organization. Why is participation in the BIA not 100% voluntary? Participants in the BIA are required to pay a yearly fee to the BIA that is collected by the municipality. It seems strange to me that business people would agree to be members of a government regulated business organization that forces other business owners to pay what is essentially another tax. The yearly cost of the BIA is approximately $25,000. There are some positive things that the BIA has done including the additional parking spaces and the pop-up shop program. However, these same things could be achieved on a voluntary basis without all the complexity, cost and regulation of the government.

The CIP (Community Improvement Program) is another government program to basically fix up properties in downtown Kemptville. The geographic area of the CIP overlaps the BIA area.

The BIA wanted to boost funding for the CIP for the 2018 budget year to $70,000. per year, which is currently funded by the municipality at a cost of $50,000. per year. The total cost of the five year program so far works out to $160,000. Why is it that property taxes that include those from the rural areas fund renovation gifts to property owners in Kemptville? I don’t get it. Many rural residents pay high city level taxes and yet are essentially second class citizens living on minimally maintained and in some cases unsafe dirt roads. I would argue that safe, properly surfaced roads are a more important priority for the township. Many of us would love to have some more money to improve our properties. If the CIP was applicable to the whole municipality, we could all get some “free” money from the government of North Grenville. Oh, um…, isn’t that equivalent to a property tax rebate?

If we want to build a vibrant community, here’s what we could do;

  1. cut complexity and over regulation and bring back a common sense approach to issues.
  2. reduce the bureaucratic overhead. Each new office employee adds at least $80-100,000. per year to the budget if you include pension and benefits. You need the taxes from about 50 new homes to pay for this.
  3. no more big budget urban boondoggle projects.
  4. re- focus on efficient delivery of needed government services such as safe roads, sewer and water infrastructure, waste management, emergency services, and library services. Reward municipal employees for performance and efficiency.
  5. keep tax rates at a low and affordable level to attract and retain residents and businesses.
  6. tell the province to pay for all the extra services it wants municipalities to pay for.
  7. tell the province to pay for police services – it’s called the Ontario Provincial Police, not the North Grenville Municipal police. Why pay for it when we have no control over it?
  8. tell the province to pay the entire cost of the school system. They are the ones who negotiate with the teachers’ union and determine the compensation of school board employees. The municipality has no control over the costs of the school system, so why do we pay for it with property taxes?
  9. make sure the Kemptville college purchase becomes a for-profit asset for North Grenville. Profits from the former college can come from building and land leases and can be used to reduce taxes and ensure our transport and communication infrastructures (i.e. roads) are in good repair. Let’s see if we can attract private business to lease some of the buildings.
  10. let’s move away from the idea that property taxes are the way to pay the funding shortfalls of the bankrupt Provincial and Federal governments. Our provincial and federal income taxes and the HST should be enough to fund all the major services we need. Taxing someone’s home after they’ve already paid taxes to get the money to buy it is immoral. We don’t have property taxes on other forms of property, and it’s equivalent to taxing the air you breathe. Try to survive without a home – oh, that’s homelessness. Gee, if the government is so concerned about homelessness, why are they making it so expensive to have and keep a home?
  11. let’s celebrate what we already have, which includes an abundance of parks and public property facilities that would be the envy of many crowded urban areas. Yes, there are things that big cities have that we don’t, including toxic air and traffic jams. But until we’ve dealt with getting our existing costs and taxes to a more sustainable and affordable level, let’s hold off creating more white elephant projects.

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