A Tale of Two Mayoral Candidates: Fiscal Restraint or Financial Mismanagement?

Taking a closer look at some of the statements made about property tax increases

A Tale of Two Mayoral Candidates: Fiscal Restraint or Financial Mismanagement?
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Nolan A Machan

Nolan A Machan

Nolan Machan is the Publisher of OakvilleNews.Org and has over 41 years of local Oakville knowledge. He is committed to providing Oakville residents with the most up-to-date information about our great town.

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When it comes to political campaigns, sound bites dominate. Bits of information packaged as succinctly as possible are designed to catch the attention of a public whose collective mind may not be as keenly focused on the election as the candidates would hope. When it comes to spinning the view of property tax increases in the Town, two assertions have been floating around this election, one each from two mayoral candidates.

Rob Burton has been the mayor since 2006 and is a known commodity. John McLaughlin is a lawyer who cut his teeth in the Prime Minister’s office. Mr. Burton believes the town is running smoothly, and the public should trust him. Mr. McLaughlin has told us all is not right at Town Hall. Each is vying for the position of mayor.

Throughout the campaign, Mr. Burton has clearly stated that Town of Oakville’s property tax increases have been kept at or below the rate of inflation. While this is generally true, it glosses over some important facts. When the region, education and town tax revenues are viewed as a whole, our property taxes (on average and taking into account the effects of inflation and population growth) have not outpaced the inflation rate significantly. However, if one looks at only the Town’s portion of the property tax, excluding the region and education boards, the taxes collected have increased by close to 25% over the period from 2008 to the present, an average of almost 6% per year over and above inflation and population growth.

We need to consider that our overall property tax increases have been kept low because of the restraint of the region and boards of education. While such tax increases may be necessary to support increased capital expenditures, much of the extra revenue has been spent on increases in the Town’s operational expenditures, which have outpaced inflation and population growth over the same period from 2008. Mr. Burton suggests that we continue on the current path but these sorts of increases are unsustainable in the long term, possibly even in the short term.

John McLaughlin as a  boxer

John McLaughlin has been duking it out with Rob Burton during this election.


On the other hand, Mr. McLaughlin has been stating that Oakville’s portion of our property taxes has increased by 40 percent. He is correct but again only up to a point. While the numbers from the Town’s annual statements do support his claim, it seems Mr. McLaughlin may have failed to take into account inflation and population growth; when these factors are considered, the increase is closer to the 25% figure stated above. Mr. McLaughlin has also said that he will chop the Town’s budget by 10%, or $30 million, without affecting services.

According to the town’s financial statements, the town has been operating with a $63 million surplus on average since 2008. So it is plausible that he could initiate his proposed cuts and still maintain services without running into deficit, but at what cost? It is important to realize that with that kind of reduction we will likely see a decrease in the quality of our infrastructure, maybe not in a year or two, but in the longer term.

Whoever sits in council chambers, from the mayor to members of town council, affects your daily life. They often have more of an impact on your immediate life than do MP’s and MPP’s. So take some time to review their platforms so that you can make an informed decision on Monday, October 27, 2014.

Rob Burton Website                                                  John McLaughlin Website


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Readers Comments (2)

  1. So-called “surplus” is just excess property taxes, development charges and user fees over general expenses – but those expenses don’t include – capital asset acquisition costs and costs relating to principal long term debt payments. So, it reflects higher taxes, user fees (charged to residents) and dc charges (charged to developers).

  2. Mr. Burton and I are both depicted wearing red trunks, I don’t wear red trunks.

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