Last night, Council brought in a budget that will keep property taxes at the same level as in 2010. I will prepare a fuller report on this in a future blog; for now, I want to address one very small but significant cut.
February 17, 2011
Dear Mayor and Councillors,
Congratulations on realizing your commitment to not increasing taxes for 2011. You are to be commended on making a difficult task as painless as possible. I am also aware that much of the heavy lifting in preparing the budget is done by your excellent administration and I congratulate them as well.
I watched the debate from the gallery and was happy to see that a general spirit of cooperation prevailed, helped in large measure by your coaching, Mayor, and your occasional outbursts of humour. Well done.
It also helped, I believe, that everyone went through this task together rather than second guessing the work done by a Board of Control, as was the case in the past.
Apart from any reservations I may have about the sustainability of the decisions in some areas, I would like to raise one concern about what transpired at the budget meeting last night as Council struggled with finding those last few extra dollars needed to get to zero. That is the issue of cutting the garden program at the London and Middlesex Housing Corporation.
This is a program that benefits our tenants, who are among the most vulnerable residents in the city. It consists of providing bedding plants and seeds and other gardening essentials to voluntary participants in our buildings and housing complexes. It allows the city’s tenants to do what the city has been unable to do because of inadequate federal and provincial funding, namely a little landscaping that puts some colour into bleak surroundings and what are often bleak lives.
The garden program was begun about four years ago. Initially, once the gardens were well established, a panel of “judges” toured the buildings and complexes to identify the winners. I helped with “judging” the first one in 2007. While not all efforts produced stunning results, some of the gardens that emerged were amazing and occasionally nutritious as some chose to plant bountiful vegetable gardens.
I believe the “contest” part of the initiative has been discontinued. Perhaps that is because the real winner was the city as the gardens instilled pride in the accomplishments of the amateur gardeners and brought neighbours together. What better way to build neighbourhoods and strengthen communities.
I hope that the city can find a way to rescue this program, perhaps through Communities in Bloom. It is a small sum of money that can have a big impact on the families and seniors who are the city’s tenants.
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