Last week I was scanning through “A Poverty Outline for
Saint John, NB” 2014 produced by the saint John Human Development council. It is important to note that the figures they provide are in per percentages.
When you consider that since Saint John has, over the past thirty plus years, lost roughly 25 thousand people to the valley it should not come as a surprise that the percentage of those on poverty has remained stubbornly high. Some with the financial means have chosen to remain in Saint John in spite of premium prices for substandard service while those lacking the financial resources have little choice but to remain as an overburdened captive market.
How did we get to where we are? Over the past several decades we have seen the City operating budgets go up, the tax rate go up, City employee salaries and benefits go up while services have gone down. Why? Saint John has had Common Council after Common Council that have lacked the courage and conviction to say “NO” to the ever increasing demands by City employees for more and more and more and the current Council is no exception.
Did you know that a few decades ago there was seven Community Centres operated by the City and now there is one Community Centre run by the City? Did you know there was at one time a full time City art teacher for the kids? City hall has managed to add a number of lawyers to the legal department but an art teacher for kids……hell no? Over the past few decades the investment on a percentage basis in sports and recreation has steadily eroded while salaries and benefits for City employees have steadily increased. Where are our priorities…….Councils ……past and present?
The City 2016 operating budget is $151 million and we mange to “squeeze” out $4 million for Parks and Recreation or 2.5% of the budget while Moncton manages to “invest” $11 million or 8.9% of their 2016 operating budget on Parks and Recreation.
The Saint John City Human Resource Department alone receives $1.5 million. Will someone tell me why in hell a city with a staff of 850 needs $1.5 million for the Human Resource Department? As a percentage of the operating budget we have seen salaries, pensions and benefits over the past few decades creep up from 50% of the operating budget to over 80%. When will it end? While we have city employees demanding more and more we have at the same time people at or near the poverty level as well as seniors on fixed income are being asked to pick up the tab. City Hall and Common Council should be ashamed.
The following is a Letter to the Editor Telegraph Journal that I read last week.
“New water bill too much for senior
Despite having been a widow for more than 10 years and heading toward my 80th birthday, I am still living on my own in a self-contained house. I always considered myself to be a strong person. But City Hall finally did it. It made me cry. I received my new water and sewage bill only to find out it had gone up another $72 for the year. I live on my old age pension. Do you have any idea what that amount of money means to someone in my position? I’ll make it simple. It’s my groceries for a month. However, I’m sure that the thinking process that the mayor and council of this city uses would make you say that this would probably do me some good – help me lose some weight. Right. I have lived here since I was five years old. But guess what? Four of my five children have left along with my eight grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren and one great–great grandchild. I wonder why? Could it possibly be because of these terrible decisions the mayor and councillors keep making for our city? If you have to dig into your own pockets to fix the messes you have created I’m willing to bet a lot of your decisions would have been very different. Why don’t you go after those who are not paying their bill and leave seniors like me alone instead of expecting us to pick up the tab. C.H. Wright”
Do you think this lady has become mad as hell? Do we need a few thousand more like her? The municipal election is less that two months away, do you suppose Saint John will finally have a Common Council that will “grow a pair”? A Council that for once will have the courage to say “NO” to the City employee demands that if left unchecked will drive still more people out and eventually bankrupt the city? Time will tell.