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Taxes, transit and expenses debated at Meadowvale town hall meeting
Coun. Pat Saito hosted a budget town hall meeting at the Meadowvale Community Centre
Oct. 24, 2017
Rachael Williams

Property taxes, councillor expenses and transit were top of mind at Monday’s budget town hall meeting.

Hosted by Ward 9 Coun. Pat Saito, residents came out to the Meadowvale Community Centre to learn about the budget process and how money is allocated throughout the city and the Region of Peel.

With the city’s budget slated to increase 5.6 per cent, contributing to an overall tax hike of three per cent, residents expressed concern with how their tax dollars are being spent.  

“A lot of our hard-earned money is leaving the city,” said Bernard Jordaan, chair of the Mississauga Seniors Council. Jordaan questioned why 60 per cent of Mississauga's tax dollars are allocated to the Region of Peel, which partially finances both Brampton and Caledon.

The Region of Peel’s 2017 operating budget was $2.2 billion, which covers police, paramedics, garbage and recycling, public health, social housing, water and wastewater, regional roads and other social services. The city's operating budget, which funds MiWay, fire, recreation, snow clearing, libraries, arts and culture and local roads was $463 million. Mississauga taxpayers bear the brunt of both bills.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie, who was in attendance at the town hall, expressed her desire for Mississauga to separate from Peel and become its own single-tier municipality.

“Mississauga is a mature city … and we are experiencing issues mature cities face,” she said.

The city owns $8.5 billion worth of infrastructure, including roads, bridges, community centres, arenas, pools and much more. Roughly 65 per cent of the city’s buildings are over 20 years old and require substantial investment.

Mississauga is also preparing for a $1.4 billion provincial investment in transit, with the Hurontario Light Rail Transit project. Other priorities include: reclaiming its waterfront, redeveloping 200-acres of prime real estate with the Britannia Farm project, reshaping the Ninth Line lands and making way for 20 new condominium towers in the core.

But as Crombie noted, dissolution of the region is up to the province and at this time, there is “no appetite” to move forward.

Meadowvale resident Stewart Rogers also questioned what he labelled misspending at city hall, referencing councillors' overseas trips as well as the unwillingness of some politicians to use social media to cut communication costs within their office budgets.

“We want to be more accountable and more transparent,” said Crombie, adding the region has established a committee to review councillors’ spending. "Not to say these trips aren’t worthwhile — they’re learning experiences, they’re networking experiences — but we have to be very transparent about them.”

Saito, who sits on the expense committee, spoke to the value of social media to cut costs and engage with her residents. With one newsletter costing $8,000 to print and distribute, the Ward 9 councillor recognized the value of online communication to keep her $27,900 annual expense budget in check.

Transit was also a concern for those in attendance. With the northwest pocket of the city underserviced compared to the rest of Mississauga, residents questioned why their tax dollars are heavily invested in local transit expansion, yet they don’t see any of the results.

Last year, MiWay operating expenditures were $177.4 million. The local transit agency hired 33 more drivers, which cost $2 million, and added 45,000 service hours.

Geoff Marinoff, the city’s director of transit, replied that it’s hard to put buses where there isn’t a demand for public transit.

Next year, the city has plans for an express service on Derry Road to connect the Meadowvale Town Centre across the northwest part of the city, into Westwood and the Hurontario corridor.

The 2018 budget will be presented to council in December. Aside from the increases required to maintain existing service levels, staff noted other pressures could include the province's minimum wage increase, price of fuel and labour negotiations.