City in financial fog, homeowners say
One only needs to read last week’s article on the city’s budget meetings (“Proposed tax hikes anger ratepayers, Jan. 20, 2006”) to gain an understanding of the financial fog that hovers over City Hall.
More than 80 Iqaluit homeowners have come together under the umbrella organization Namminiq Angirraliit Iqalunni Association to offer a tax-paying voice and perspective to the city’s current budget deliberations.
After reviewing in detail the city’s budget proposal and reviewing past financial statements for the city, NAIA wrote council with questions on the budget that in our opinion needed to be answered before informed budget choices could be made. We followed up this letter with a presentation to council last week which underlined our concerns about the need for council to have good financial information before making the tough choices that all councils must make in passing a budget.
Instead of answers to our questions, the Chief Administrative Officer, Ian Freemantle, again chose to reach back into the city’s archives to quote outdated studies completed prior to the election of this council. Councilors and observers were provided with a long and confusing explanation concerning financial scenarios considered back in 2002.
Mr. Freemantle was accurately quoted in your paper as saying, “I won’t put this city $26 million in debt — I won’t do it.” (A proposal not even on the table in the 2006 budget discussions). Citizens of Iqaluit have to question why, in any case, Mr. Freemantle would view this decision as his and not the council’s.
It did not go unnoticed that in Mr. Freemantle’s response to a request by homeowners to control tax increases, he was only prepared to discuss borrowing as an option to higher taxes. Clearly, Mr. Freemantle is refusing to look at expenditures such as a cutback in the proposed 10 per cent salary and benefit increase (totaling $1.1 million) which was quietly buried in the numbers put before council.
The citizens of Iqaluit have elected this city council to exercise good judgment in making decisions that are in the best interest of our community. To make sound decisions, councilors need clear financial information that provides them with an opportunity to choose between what administration would like in the budget and those priorities that council sees as reasonable, manageable and affordable for our community.
If councilors are not able to turn to public and provide clear, compelling arguments as to why choices were made, then administration has failed in their duty to provide them with the information they need.
Council will consider the budget again on Jan. 30. NAIA hopes that between now and then that our membership receives the answers to the financial questions posed in our letter. We also hope that council considers our recommendations on the budget process. Above all, NAIA hopes that councilors enter those Jan. 30 meetings with clear financial information on which to make very difficult decisions, so they can explain those decisions to citizens on Jan. 31.
NAIA Board of Directors
(Iqaluit Homeowners’ Association)