Letter to the Editor - Re: 2021 Summer Games
I am writing to you Mr. Mayor, my Ward 9 Councilor Mrs. Deb McIntosh, and to the Chairs/Vice Chairs of the Community Services and Planning Committees.
As a very concerned tax payer I am extremely worried about this application for the 2021 Canada Summer Games. Please bare with me as this may be lengthy.
I understand that the prestige of these games is very high, as a Sudburian, born and raised, I am proud that we made it past the first hurdle and are looking good for the short list after Christmas. I am very concerned however about the cost to our community and the cost for this application. Council has recently approved $150,000 for consultants to come in to do an assessment of certain sports infrastructure as requested by the Games Selection Committee. An additional $10,000 is due by 31 January I believe, to continue our application. That is $160,000 of tax payer money invested in something not guaranteed to generate a return and that has a high probability of a negative return once the smoke clears. Yes, you have to spend money to make money at times and investing is never a sure thing. I would like to point out however that we have a huge financial problem here in our fair city.
According to City Budget documents, for 2016 the City planned to run a $30 million dollar deficit on the Capital Surplus account. Being that according to the Financial Information Return (FIR) submitted to the Province, there was only around $150 million in there to begin with, that does not leave a lot of money left over. One year with a deficit on that account is not so bad I would agree. The elephant in the room is that, once again, according to the City's own budget documents we have an approximately $1.4 Billion dollar deficit in Road and Water/Waster Infrastructure repairs and Upgrades that need to be done. This does not include other Capital requirements such as Fleet Replacement (The Fire Dept alone is asking to finance just over $1 million for a new Ladder truck.), building maintenance and other capital assets that require purchasing. Let us not forget about Maley Drive either, that venture is going to cost us 10's if not 100's of millions of dollars. Money that just is not there. This is not even taking into account the ballooning operations budget that appears to be out of control.
So how can we afford to upgrade our sports infrastructure, get caught up on our infrastructure deficit, build a new road and host a 2 week sports event that is estimated to cost anywhere from $30 to $50 million dollars? From the start we need an immediate investment of $3 million from city coffers, another $6 million from the Province and Feds. That is only $9 million out of $30-$50 million. According to the City's own financial report at the last council meeting, the best they can hope for is around $15 million in total from the City, Province, Federal Government and Corporate fund raising/sponsors for capital expenses. The rest, Operating costs and overtures, is expected to be covered by ticket and concession sales. Not likely, most likely is that us the tax payers will foot the bill for the next several generations.
Another question, is how much money will these upgrades and additions to our leisure facilities bring to our city versus their cost? I know that it was stated at council that some of the upgrades were already scheduled and would just be moved up the list, but at what cost? In order to fund the new upgrades what other capital projects will be sacrificed? Are we talking about roads? Water and Sewer? Bridges? Arena's? New Ambulances or Fire Trucks?
Even if we do not get the games, if we continue with the current level of expenditures for Capital Improvements, without any significant influx in funding, our Capital Surplus account will be depleted long before 2021.
The long term costs to paying these games off, will be far more than the extremely short term benefits from these games, if there are any to begin with. I urge council to reconsider before spending any more tax payer money on a venture that has the potential to cause significant financial harm to the City and the Tax Payers.
Thank You for reading my concerns,