Friday April 1, 2011

Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday April 1, 2011

Province leaves city with $5.1m budget gap

The city will not receive any funding from the province to offset the cost of ambulances and social services.

“I would love to be able to provide Hamilton with every single request, but unfortunately, this time around we couldn’t provide it in the budget,” said Sophia Aggelonitis, revenue minister and MPP for Hamilton Mountain.

The city had requested $4 million from the province to help ease the cost of providing provincially mandated social services. The city also requested $1.1 million to cover the increased ambulance costs it will face once the McMaster emergency room closes to adults April 4.

Both requests were denied.

The province’s move means the city’s property tax increase – currently sitting at 1 per cent – could be hiked to make up for the missing cash. Since each percentage point of the residential tax increase represents about $6 million, this $5.1 gap adds almost a full percentage point to this year’s hike.

“It’s hard to comprehend. We’ve made so much progress on the budget – this year more than other years – and maybe that’s contributing to why we didn’t get any money,” said Councillor Chad Collins. “It almost unravels about a month’s worth of work in terms of trying to find efficiencies in the budget.”

It’s also being seen as a risky political move for the provincial Liberals in an election year.

“I’m shocked that the local MPPs aren’t screaming and vocalizing this travesty on behalf of the residents of the city of Hamilton,” said Councillor Sam Merulla. “They must have given up on the election. They obviously feel that these seats are not important to them – they’ve literally abandoned the city of Hamilton.” (Source: Hamilton Spectator)