Editor's note: Mr. Rennick's letter is in response to the BayToday story New arena decision heading for overtime.
To the editor:
During the special committee meeting regarding the new arena, staff outlined its support for this project. This support included a presentation by the CFO attempting to minimize the increased costs to be borne by taxpayers. Fortunately, a majority of council members voted to send the report back to committee for further consideration.
An arena is a nonessential item rather than a necessity. However, its desirability from the point of view of improving the overall quality of life in North Bay is evident.
Over the last decade, the increases in the tax burden have accumulated at a rate 166% higher than inflation. The tax levy in 2012 was $73.7 million and in 2022 was $102.3 million. This is in spite of the fact that the population has remained unchanged, the services provided have not changed or have been reduced and other revenues and user fees have increased.
The Asset Management Plan (AMP) report tabled less than five months ago painted a grim picture of a $27 million “shortfall” between current funding and the amount required to replace infrastructure assets. This figure is, and was blatant fear-mongering by city staff and used as support for a number of recommendations to increase reserve funding and transfer capital expenditures to the operating budget.
The poorly named PAYGO program which incorrectly suggests we are paying for things on a current basis when we are simply increasing the tax levy was recommended to be increased by 1.5% to 2.5%. Based on the faulty reasoning in the AMP report, if the arena is built, current taxpayers should not only be paying for the current loan principal and interest payments, but begin paying additional taxes for the replacement of this new infrastructure which will be required in 40 years or so.
This idea is totally in opposition to the municipal taxation principle that those who benefit from the services should be the ones paying for them
Based on these facts, the argument is not the location or the design of the arena, but can taxpayers afford the added costs for a project that is nonessential based on the lack of spending restraint, and indeed common sense, exhibited by council in previous years. Can we count on senior staff who have made recommendations detrimental to taxpayers on numerous occasions in the past?
Since this issue went back to committee, one can hope that the whole thing will be put on hold until the review of operations recommended by Councillor Lowery is completed and then scrapped completely.
D. D. Rennick CPA, CA