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Letter: City councillor explains why he voted ‘no’ to the budget

Ward 1 Coun. Mark Signoretti explains his vote on the city budget
Ward 1 Coun. Mark Signoretti. (File)

I did not vote in favour of this municipal budget, and thought I would just express the reasons for my position.

You cannot solve a problem unless you’re honest about the problem first. In my opinion, we’ve yet to be completely honest with ourselves about the fiscal issues this city will be facing moving forward. 

I’m also worried that collectively as a council we are out of touch with the day-to-day realities of a lot of people in this city. 

When there was all the talk last month about council and staff compensation, I was reminded of just how fortunate councillors are. One-third of households in our city have an income below the typical councillor’s pay.  In addition, most of us on council have another income in our household, be it a spouse's income, a business, or a pension. 

When you put it that way, you realize many of us on council do not have the first-hand experience of the day-to-day financial challenges a large part of the city faces. The reality is, lots of people will find the annual tax increases we pass on a challenge. This is especially true in a global pandemic.

Those tax raises are direct reflections of our decisions as a council. I’m concerned as a council we have not looked at cutting costs or expenses with enough vigor. We simply look at last year's budget and throw a per-cent tax increase at it. 

In an era where affordability and cost of living will likely be the No. 1 issue for voters, I think we can do more. As the leadership, I hope that we can take steps in future years to move away from the culture of just increasing last year's budget by a fixed per cent.

We need to change the focus to asking taxpayers for the money that we need, not the money that we want.

To make meaningful changes in the tax rate, the best place to look would be where we spend the most amount of money. More than half of our budget consists of salaries and benefits or contract services. Most of these costs are directly related to labour.

It is for this reason I wish I had found some support for freezing wages for one year. Even a small, one-time freezing of staff salaries would have made a difference to the taxpayer.

In closing, my hope is in future years we need to do more to help the taxpayer out. Hopefully in future years this will be more of a priority.

Mark Signoretti
Greater Sudbury city councillor for Ward 1