For years, Mississauga’s city leadership took pride in keeping property tax increases to a minimum. However, in the last eight years, the city portion of our taxes has gone up substantially. The increase has been 58 percent over a period when inflation totalled just twelve percent. This increase does not include the stormwater and ash borer surcharges. Our taxes used to be lower than those of Toronto, but are now about thirty-percent higher. Some of the tax challenge is structural. The city is getting older and we no longer have the huge development charges we once had. However, when most people face financial challenges, they avoid extravagant expenses. Unfortunately, too many councillors have been in their positions for twenty or more years. Over time, council has gotten too relaxed about spending. One example of poor financial stewardship concerns city spending for the Cavalier horse show at the Hershey Centre. Council approved a parking lot for the show. It has not been used since and there are no future uses currently planned. City staff offered to prepare a report of the future viability of the project and have it ready for the following week. Only one councillor argued council should wait for the report. (The Mayor was unavailable for that meeting.) The expenditure was supposed to be $350,000, but it went $150,000 over budget. The overage might have been due to the contract being sole sourced. Council broke rules that city staff (and almost any large enterprise) are required to follow. We can do better. My background is leading at a Vice President level for an international bank. My most recent role has been to find systems and solutions for the bank that save money. We need to do more of that at the city.
Solving, or even just improving, big problems typically requires tackling them on multiple fronts. To address tax issues, I am making seven key commitments:
- To carefully review and question all major budget and spending proposals.
- To work diligently to keep any required tax increases to a minimum.
- To support a four-year freeze on councillor salary increases.
- To use my office budget to serve my constituents, and not as a personal slush fund.
- To seek system solutions that improve service and reduce costs, and to challenge city staff to do the same.
- To consult residents of the ward about what the city’s spending priorities should be.
- To be transparent with constituents about the total tax and surcharge rates each year and any required increases.