It was a groundbreaking day at Niagara Region Headquarters where business and community leaders were brought in for their say about the state of the area just before the budget discussions for 2016 commence.
The energy was high and the opinions many, of individuals from all sectors of our community who were invited to speak before Niagara Regional Chair Alan Caslin, Chair Councillor David Barrack and Audit Chair Councillor Tony Quirk.
Regional Chair Alan Caslin called the meeting a move towards “bringing a true business approach to regional government”.
The 2 key questions given to the group were:
1. Do you support the Regional Chair’s and Budget Chair’s view that a 0% tax levy increase (this does not include an assessment growth of 1%) will be the best levy option for Niagara businesses to grow?
2. What suggestions do you have where there is waste/ and or duplication that could be eliminated to find savings that would keep taxes low for Niagara businesses and residents? Here’s a clip taken after the day’s meeting:
Business leaders each spoke about the challenges they feel faces the region. A couple of themes resounded through their discussions being that: increasing taxes in the area is no longer an affordable option and at a deficit of over 450 million dollars (currently in niagara) it is no longer a sustainable situation that we can continue. Changes must be made and we are the generation that must begin the movement.
(Below: Mark Sherk of Verge Insurance voices his thoughts).
Suggestions to improve the situation in the future included approaching Queens Park once and for all with the notion that the Niagara region become as one, thus ending the enormous costs associated with maintaining as 12 distinct municipalities.
Attention was drawn to the fact that there is an enoromous duplication in services that are relevant right now in all industries and make business hard and costs high. Also brought to the table was the discussion of the huge number of region employees that maintain the current system (3,600) that are paid on average $6.43 more per hour than their average private counterparts.
(Pictured below: Andrew Petrowski Regional Council Member, addresses the group).
Solutions here and now by the group included that we must not only have a 0% increase of taxes, but also refuse to allow overspending that adds to our deficit every year.
BOTTOM LINE: This is a step in the right direction. What would you add to the discussion?
For more information on Niagara Region and the budget click: niagararegion.ca
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