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On September 1st, Lydia Smith wrote a letter to Cobourg asking for an explanation of why the Town’s staffing in the Parks and Recreation departments had grown much faster than the Town had grown.  Mayor Gil Brocanier immediately declared it to be factually wrong and then on October 19, CAO Stephen Peacock wrote an official response.  (See links below).  In a presentation to Council on Monday night, the Cobourg taxpayers Association said that “the report by CAO Stephen Peacock regarding Lydia Smith's letter of September 1st raises more questions than it provides answers.”

paul pagnueloThe presentation was given by Paul Pagnuelo and he confirmed that he was speaking for the Cobourg Taxpayers Association (CTA) and for Lydia who is the CTA’s president.

Both sides of the argument agree that the problem is that the numbers used in Council documents are not the same as those provided in the Financial Information Return (FIR) [which] the municipality is required to file with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing

The CTA specifically says about Peacock’s report (details here) that:

  • He does not address the increase in employee costs (salaries, wages and benefits) for the Town of Cobourg between 2010 and 2014, which were part of Ms. Smith’s September 1st letter and which were taken from the FIR. (Her letter and more here)
  • Nowhere does he attempt to reconcile the numbers he provided as being the Parks and Recreation functions with those in the FIR nor how the FIR numbers were arrived at.
  • He does not reconcile the similar job descriptions: Seasonal, Part-Time, casual and “incidental” hires.
  • He does not explicitly link funding “through provincial programs” with budget line items.

CTA also said that:

Mr. Peacock attempts to blunt the cost of increased service levels by comparing the “overall” tax rate increases in Cobourg with the Ontario Consumer Price Index [and how it's comparable].

The tax increases that Mr. Peacock shows as being “overall (his words) tax rate increases” are disingenuous and that no matter how one slices or dices it, overall municipal property taxes for general purposes according to the FIR and the Town’s budget documents increased by 5.06% in 2011; 3.36% in 2012; 4.22% in 2013; and 3.23% in 2014. Click here for details at the CTA web site

In the same four year period, municipal property taxes have increased since 2010 by almost $3 million or 16.8% and not the 7.4% shown in Mr. Peacock’s numbers. In each year, the percentage increase in municipal taxes well exceeds the Ontario CPI.

I understand that the difference between the numbers is because of an increased tax base.  Most taxpayers care more about their own tax increase and not whether total expenditure has increased.

CTA said that it is likely that Mayor Brocanier now regrets his poor choice of words at the September 15th Council meeting when he stated unequivocally that the information Ms. Smith used was erroneous. Nobody from the public should be accused of providing erroneous information when the data in question was what the Town reported in a statutory return to the provincial government. It’s the Mayor’s decision as to whether an apology to Ms. Smith is in order.

The presentation finished with the statement:

The Cobourg Taxpayers Association does not want to be confrontational. All we ask is that our local municipal government be accountable and publicly report accurate and straightforward numbers and information that taxpayers expect and deserve to be given.  The full CTA presentation is available on their web site here.

However, Mayor Brocanier did not apologize, there were no questions or comments by councillors and no direction given to Stephen Peacock to further respond.  No doubt the council feels this case is closed.

 

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