BY JIM PITT
Special to the VOICE
There has been a lot of politics around the Region lately. This phenomenon is relatively new to most around town. Sides have been chosen, accusations are flying, propaganda is filling the local newspapers and the truth has taken a back seat to politicking.
The local paper next door, in Welland, has been running up to four stories a day concerning the finances and the arenas of Pelham. All of these stories have been an attempt to show our Town’s leadership and decision making in a positive light. These stories contain lots of glowing praise and it all sounds good.
These stories also contain no real facts, no mention of opposition and no questions about any of the finances that are swirling around our little town.
It’s all very political. I suppose you might decide to choose sides and either agree with the detractors or agree with the boosters, but as I said, the facts are firmly in the back seat, and until the facts are made public, it might be wise to wait, listen, and make a judgment when all of the information is out there.
The information that is out there, waiting to move to the front seat, is considerable.
Councillor Papp alluded to some of the unanswered questions in interviews with local media on November 29. On the sale of the disputed land, he admitted that, “That one was not well handled.” On booking development charges in advance of the actual construction of a home, he recognized that markets can change, as they did in the past. “I went through that in 1983 when I moved here,” he said.
I don’t remember 1983 being particularly bad for housing but the 1990s were not good years. Housing was stagnant after a correction in 1989-90 and prices did not recover until the mid 2000s. Many housing developments were put on hold and the fields remained empty.
On the arenas, Papp recognized that the operating costs are an unknown. He suggested that, “If you can’t operate two arenas, then you operate one.”
Lost in these admissions: what the Town’s contingency plans are if any or all of these setbacks occur, and, how will it pay for all of these fiscal landmines if they explode in our faces.
A clue as to how it can all be paid for was mentioned in the Mayor’s blog on October 2, 2017. In it the Mayor examined the latest Statistics Canada income findings for the year 2015.
Pelham, it seems, has the highest median income in Niagara Region, at $95,052, a full $30,000 more than the median income for the entire Niagara Region. I read this entry and immediately got a sinking feeling in my gut.
Just look at how wealthy this town is. The taxpayers can afford to pay more and, if we really did make terrible decisions, well then they will have to pay for our mistakes.
In the spring I wrote a column about the steady, above-inflation-rate rise in the Town’s portion of the property tax bill we all have to pay. After a considerable amount of effort and with the aid of a former Chief Financial Officer from a large city in the GTA, I got the numbers. The numbers were accurate and alarming.
The Town will only give us the blended rate of increase, not the Town increase on its own. This time we should all expect a full breakdown, not the blended rate the Mayor prefers to use to mitigate the large percentage increases of past years.
Since 2014 the Regional increase was relatively small, averaging 0.67% per year. The educational portion has decreased an average of 2.17%, but the Town’s portion has climbed to an average 5.12% per year.
These are facts, not politicking.
Around the Region, municipalities are in the process of finalizing their tax increases for 2018. It’s a municipal election year, so it can be assumed that these increases will be small, to avoid upsetting the voters. In 2019 they can go back to upsetting the taxpayers, if you get my meaning.
All of the politicking, propaganda and advertorials will become a moot point if we, the taxpayers of Pelham, are faced with yet another large increase in the Town portion of our property tax bill. This tax increase will serve as all the facts we need to know. Once armed with the facts, you can decide which side you believe.
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