Comments on the Fiscal Sustainability Report,

by: Brian Sanderson

Executive Summary

The Fiscal Sustainablitiy Task Force has found that essential infrastructure has not been properly maintained by the Town of Wolfville. They estimate that things can be set right, over a period of time, for a cost equal to about 10% of the Town Budget.

History

The report from the Fiscal Sustainability Task Force (FSTF) was long delayed, presumably by more urgent business? Indeed, the delays were so long and the progress so slow that I was previously moved to address the terms of reference for the FSTF. As far as I can tell, the FSTF ignored my input for some reason or another. Eventually the FSTF finalized its report. The hundred-odd people who filled out the official survey form had their comments included within the report. I did not fill out the survey form because I found many of the questions to be ill-posed. While I have the wherewithall to deal with an ill-posed questionaire, I had no confidence that those who would create such a thing would be capable of comprehending my response. I submitted another round of unsolicited comments, documenting technical errors in the final report, among other things. There followed a long period of silence.

I was suspicious that Council planned to simply bury the FSTF Report. The Mayor's Newsletter (Fall 2010) seemed to confirm my suspicion.

Commentary on the FSTF Report

Shortly after the FSTF Report was presented, I advised that the colour coding mixed up in Figure 1, page 9. For example, Wolfville has the highest per capita operating cost, $2011, but is colour coded as the lowest! This error has not been corrected. I'm sure that the obfusification was not deliberate. One can only hope that such errors will be corrected before Council acts on Recommendation 10 (presenting the report to the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations)...

On page 13 we find two very telling statements:

  1. "Canadian municipalities build, own and maintain most of the infrastructure that supports our economy and quality of life."
    So we see the heart of the problem. Obviously, the private sector is simply not large enough to support all that public sector infrastructure...
  2. "Yet for the past 20 years, municipalities have been caught in a fiscal squeeze caused by growing responsibilities and reduced revenues."
    I suggest to you that these are not "growing" responsibilities but are really assumed liabilities. I strongly suspect that the real problem is vainglorious leadership. Leaders with maniacal needs cannot be satisfied by the daily grind of looking after core infrastructure. They need new toys and endless talk feasts. Talk is not cheap in Wolfville!

Page 26 of the report sets the parameters to, as you say, "Engage residents to work with Council to determine best combination of funding for the planned work from the following sources of funds:"

  1. Debt
  2. Sewer rates (where work applies)
  3. Service reductions
  4. Tax rate increase dedicated to reducing the Infrastructure deficit
  5. New commercial revenue
Let's deal to these "sources of funds" in short order:
  1. Debt.
    One does not eliminate debt by taking on debt. This sort of nonsense will only make things worse!
  2. Sewer rates (where work applies).
    The key here is the qualifier, where work applies. We already pay plenty --- Council needs to stop foolish diversion of funds.
  3. Service reductions.
    Whatever these services are? Many of the things that our Mayor would call a service, I would call an imposition. Remove all impositions! If there is a real service, somewhere amongst the nonsense, then privatize it!
  4. Tax rate increase dedicated to reducing the Infrastructure deficit.
    We have had many years of increasing taxation. It didn't work because the Town wastes your money. The Town of Wolfville needs to re-direct existing revenue.
  5. New commercial revenue.
    Is this a joke?
    What, tax the poor bastards ever more?
    Or are we dreaming of commercial growth? Like the Wolfville pseudo-farmers market! That den of subsidized iniquity! I still recall Council sleight of hand, that botched attempt to slip $200,000 from the pockets of ratepayers, for pseudo-farmer marketeering.
No, no, NO! It just won't do. Your "sources of funds" are a joke. I'd call them a fraud if I thought there could be any possibility that they might be taken seriously.

In calling for this now CANCELLED meeting, it was noted that Wolfville has "a highly educated and creative citizenry, a University full of bright minds, ..." This may be so, but where were all those bright minds when we were getting into this pickle? Perhaps their desperate warnings were just ignored?

The problem and its solution were obvious before the FSTF convened. We only require the courage and honesty to address the obvious: