City’s Children Bearing Brunt of Budget Cuts

Subject: City’s Children Bearing Brunt of Budget Cuts
From: Garden City Critic
Date: 11 Mar 2015

To the people of St.Catharines,

Being frugal is a way of life. I myself have cancelled my cable subscription over a year ago in order to save money. This was an easy choice as most of the shows on television were on when I could not watch and the On Demand feature hardly ever worked. It took the other members of the household a few weeks to notice the cable was disconnected, goes to show you how important this service was. At $75 per month, the service was not worth it, so we went with Netflix at $7 per month.

Balancing a city budget is a bit more complicated. You must be able to prioritize services the city needs and wants for it’s residents. Everything costs money and money does not grow on trees, that much is certain. St.Catharines finds itself in an interesting situation. An average sized city in the centre of the Niagara Region. The Garden City once a place of growth and prosperity is stagnant and crumbling. Infrastructure upgrades are badly needed, as do various services. The property taxes are among the highest in the region, some neighbourhood taxes rival those of the GTA.

Every year the city budget must be reviewed and adjusted, usually resulting in a tax increase. During this past municipal election, a few mayoral candidates insisted on promising even more than the average opportunistic politician would. A zero tax raise was thrown around, making fools of the candidates and citizens alike. Who wouldn’t want a zero tax increase? We could all use a tax break! Realistically folks, that is not going to happen. Now low and behold, we are facing a 4% tax increase!

In order to soften the blow, council is looking to make cuts. Council’s goal is to keep the tax increase at 2%. Wonderful. But what happened to the zero tax increase? Oh nevermind. The city council is going to lead by example and show the fine folks of St.Catharines how it’s done, this is how you become frugal folks. The city is going to close five outdoor swimming pools. That’s right folks, five outdoor swimming pools, and if we really want the city to be frugal, the city will throw in the Museum.

It is no secret the residents of St.Catharines are made up of many hard working families. There are many folks that heavily rely on our community pools for an inexpensive family activity. For a few dollars, your kids can spend the day in a local pool having fun and getting relief from the hot summer weather. The benefits are numerous, students have employment opportunities, children and families have a safe, fun and cheap source of entertainment.

Closing community pools means children’s camps and groups lose a big portion of their programming. Closing pools will result in kids finding unsafe alternatives without adequate supervision. Pools are the most used and the most affordable services for children and families.

There are plenty of ways to save money. No matter where the money is taken from, there will need to be an adjustment. There are plenty of redundancies within City Hall. Children’s and community services should be the last to be considered for cuts, especially when so many benefit from these services.

In a recent St.Catharines Standard article regarding the budget, a recommendation was made: “And it will recommend reducing the hours of operation at the Garden City arena by not opening it until 4 p.m. Monday to Friday — a $27,000 saving.”

We are so desperate for ice time that we can keep the arena closed until 4 pm. Everyday. The city will save $27 000 by keeping a decrepit arena closed most of the week. However, do not mention closing this crumbling and outdated building. The city is desperate to save money and waste it simultaneously. The arena costs $1 000 000 to operate. That is one million dollars. Yes, lets keep the arena closed until 4pm for a savings of $27 000. Let’s close five community pools for a total savings of $227 000. Do not close the crumbling arena, which will save the city one million dollars. You know what that one million dollars would do? Offset the cost of operating the Meridian Centre. Amazing! Why didn’t anyone think of that? Oh, they have? Oh.

Kids, you will have to swim in the canal this summer. We are keeping the crumbling arena and we are going to keep it closed the majority of the time. It is time for the fine folks of this fine city to stand up for the Garden City. Stand up! Yes, stand up. Especially if you didn’t vote. Especially if you voted. You must stand up and speak up.

We cannot continue this way. Closing the community pools is like cancelling Netflix. Cancel the cable.

By M. Limar