Editorial: Hamilton's budget nightmare

Opinion Jan 22, 2015 Hamilton Mountain News

“We have a crisis,” Hamilton’s general manager of public works, Gerry Davis bluntly told councillors last week. “The roads are failing and getting worse.”

The same argument could be used for the city’s housing, transit and other responsibilities.

For politicians, and for that matter the public, Hamilton’s financial issues shouldn’t be a surprise. For years city staff have been warning about Hamilton’s aging roads, sidewalks and facilities, while encouraging politicians to do something about it. The advice has been mostly ignored. Some politicians, particularly former Stoney Creek councillor Brad Clark, took pains to identify the city’s escalating debt, expected to reach $1 billion in a couple of years. And during the election, it was Clark who talked about the lack of the city’s ability to pay for its infrastructure deficit. But the majority of candidates conveniently forgot to tell the public the true measure of Hamilton’s fiscal problems.

Last week, city staff  revealed that instead of spending the $120 million needed to repair and maintain its roads this year, the city is actually only spending $59 million. And that doesn’t include any money to fix or maintain neighbourhood roads. It was a situation some councillors found unpalatable, especially coming on the heels of an election where many residents were demanding the city fix the infrastructure.

There is an effort by some councillors and Mayor Fred Eisenberger to raise the capital levy to one per cent from 0.5 to help fund infrastructure projects, raising an extra $3.3 million. But this is a band-aid solution to a far greater dilemma facing Hamilton.

Despite the entire Hamilton “renaissance” talk, the city is mired in debt, with limited revenue possibilities, with homeowners already contributing about 70 per cent of the city’s revenue, leaving industries and businesses paying the other 30 per cent.

While raising taxes is an easy answer, the real scourge in this sordid situation are those politicians who campaigned last year silent on Hamilton’s dire financial situation, even though they knew the financial bomb was about to explode. Residents themselves are also culpable. They constantly demand that taxes be cut and say that city hall is spending too much money, but when their roads or sidewalks are deteriorating, they demand the city fix it.

Despite Hamilton officials touting a never-never land of great investment opportunities, or the benefits the city will reap from the Pan Am Games, financial problems persist in a community that chooses to ignore a financial reality that is close to coming true.

 

[poll id="196"]

Editorial: Hamilton's budget nightmare

Opinion Jan 22, 2015 Hamilton Mountain News

“We have a crisis,” Hamilton’s general manager of public works, Gerry Davis bluntly told councillors last week. “The roads are failing and getting worse.”

The same argument could be used for the city’s housing, transit and other responsibilities.

For politicians, and for that matter the public, Hamilton’s financial issues shouldn’t be a surprise. For years city staff have been warning about Hamilton’s aging roads, sidewalks and facilities, while encouraging politicians to do something about it. The advice has been mostly ignored. Some politicians, particularly former Stoney Creek councillor Brad Clark, took pains to identify the city’s escalating debt, expected to reach $1 billion in a couple of years. And during the election, it was Clark who talked about the lack of the city’s ability to pay for its infrastructure deficit. But the majority of candidates conveniently forgot to tell the public the true measure of Hamilton’s fiscal problems.

Last week, city staff  revealed that instead of spending the $120 million needed to repair and maintain its roads this year, the city is actually only spending $59 million. And that doesn’t include any money to fix or maintain neighbourhood roads. It was a situation some councillors found unpalatable, especially coming on the heels of an election where many residents were demanding the city fix the infrastructure.

There is an effort by some councillors and Mayor Fred Eisenberger to raise the capital levy to one per cent from 0.5 to help fund infrastructure projects, raising an extra $3.3 million. But this is a band-aid solution to a far greater dilemma facing Hamilton.

Despite the entire Hamilton “renaissance” talk, the city is mired in debt, with limited revenue possibilities, with homeowners already contributing about 70 per cent of the city’s revenue, leaving industries and businesses paying the other 30 per cent.

While raising taxes is an easy answer, the real scourge in this sordid situation are those politicians who campaigned last year silent on Hamilton’s dire financial situation, even though they knew the financial bomb was about to explode. Residents themselves are also culpable. They constantly demand that taxes be cut and say that city hall is spending too much money, but when their roads or sidewalks are deteriorating, they demand the city fix it.

Despite Hamilton officials touting a never-never land of great investment opportunities, or the benefits the city will reap from the Pan Am Games, financial problems persist in a community that chooses to ignore a financial reality that is close to coming true.

 

[poll id="196"]

Editorial: Hamilton's budget nightmare

Opinion Jan 22, 2015 Hamilton Mountain News

“We have a crisis,” Hamilton’s general manager of public works, Gerry Davis bluntly told councillors last week. “The roads are failing and getting worse.”

The same argument could be used for the city’s housing, transit and other responsibilities.

For politicians, and for that matter the public, Hamilton’s financial issues shouldn’t be a surprise. For years city staff have been warning about Hamilton’s aging roads, sidewalks and facilities, while encouraging politicians to do something about it. The advice has been mostly ignored. Some politicians, particularly former Stoney Creek councillor Brad Clark, took pains to identify the city’s escalating debt, expected to reach $1 billion in a couple of years. And during the election, it was Clark who talked about the lack of the city’s ability to pay for its infrastructure deficit. But the majority of candidates conveniently forgot to tell the public the true measure of Hamilton’s fiscal problems.

Last week, city staff  revealed that instead of spending the $120 million needed to repair and maintain its roads this year, the city is actually only spending $59 million. And that doesn’t include any money to fix or maintain neighbourhood roads. It was a situation some councillors found unpalatable, especially coming on the heels of an election where many residents were demanding the city fix the infrastructure.

There is an effort by some councillors and Mayor Fred Eisenberger to raise the capital levy to one per cent from 0.5 to help fund infrastructure projects, raising an extra $3.3 million. But this is a band-aid solution to a far greater dilemma facing Hamilton.

Despite the entire Hamilton “renaissance” talk, the city is mired in debt, with limited revenue possibilities, with homeowners already contributing about 70 per cent of the city’s revenue, leaving industries and businesses paying the other 30 per cent.

While raising taxes is an easy answer, the real scourge in this sordid situation are those politicians who campaigned last year silent on Hamilton’s dire financial situation, even though they knew the financial bomb was about to explode. Residents themselves are also culpable. They constantly demand that taxes be cut and say that city hall is spending too much money, but when their roads or sidewalks are deteriorating, they demand the city fix it.

Despite Hamilton officials touting a never-never land of great investment opportunities, or the benefits the city will reap from the Pan Am Games, financial problems persist in a community that chooses to ignore a financial reality that is close to coming true.

 

[poll id="196"]