Barely a week into office and the City’s new chief administrative officer, Onorio Colucci, plots a sky high tax increase approaching 8.8% annually. He plans to start dipping into taxpayers wallets to collect money needed in 2026 for a new, so-called mega hospital.
According to Colucci, in a report he wrote for city council’s April 18 meeting, the new facility will be rather spectacular and will end any impatience locals might have with their health care, or driving out of the city for their medical needs.
It will, he claims, boast, “… impatient [sic] medical and surgical units.”
This is about as amusing as his claim the project will have, “… significant positive benefits for the local economy.”
Although Colucci is without formal public administration education, he must have endured some comedy training somewhere along the line in his bean counting career. How his recommended tax increase, just for the hospital, can have “… positive benefits for the local economy …” is nothing if not hard to swallow.
Surely he knows the more he takes from the hard-pressed, heavily taxed denizens of the once great city, the less they have to contribute to the economy. In fact, it is not unreasonable to conclude some, those facing the limits of their spending power, will be forced to cut back generating a negative positive impact.
As can be expected, Colucci offers no documented proof of these perceived great benefits. But, he does want residents to take his medicine of a tax increase rather than the city borrow the money. His being against long term debt is quite an unreasonable position for the man leading the administration of a city having trouble finding new job creating investors.
In his mind, taking on debt at an interest rate of 3.5% could generate “… cumulative interest costs of $67.3 million over the life of the debenture.”
However, implementing higher taxes for a bill not due until 2026, at the earliest, is foolish simply because taxpayers will be paying for something many of them will never use. It is the antithesis of user pay.
Colucci plans to invest the money he collects. Is this really a good idea given his team’s poor record of investing city funds? He could avoid the need for his new tax by cutting the annual budget by about $8.8 million. He could further reduce the amount needed by having council kill the plan for a new city hall and renovate, it like Essex did, saving millions.
What is very scary is Colucci does not calculate the costs to provide infrastructure to the new hospital.
It is in an un-serviced farmer’s field. The bill could exceed $300 million; money that will have to be spent before the hospital opens. In all, the city will need not $100 million for its share, but four times that, with little shared with the county.
Colucci did not say why he omitted the infrastructure costs, nor did he explain that the true cost of the hospital for Windsor taxpayers could be as much as $400 million, which would translate into an 8.8% tax increase.
This, of course, will be devastating to Windsor ratepayers. It is the wrong way to go.
Windsor needs to become cost competitive with other jurisdictions in the province. Colucci is not helping by recommending council increase taxes.
Robert Tuomi can be heard at noon every Thursday co-hosting Talkin’ ‘Bout Windsor on CJAM 99.1 FM. Listen on demand to previous episodes or catch the discussion live and join in. It is also streamed online at CJAM.