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Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes

Councillor John Tamming channeled Oliver Wendell Holmes at this morning's budget meeting.

Members of Council:

Indulge me for a moment. Four minutes to be precise. I got to thinking last night about the words of our city manager yesterday. And how we should not lose sight of all the services which in fact we do obtain in the city with our taxes.

We were told this week that the average household property tax bill these days is around $3,500. And the average water bill is around $500. That makes around $4,000 a year. That’s not a tiny number. But that does average out to ten dollars and ninety six cents per day. And let’s say that the average household tax bill is paid by an average family, say a couple with two kids. That means each half of the couple pays five dollars and forty eight cents per day.

Five and a half bucks will get you a double double large at Tim’s plus a bagel. With cream cheese.

I say this to provide us all and to provide the ratepayers with some perspective. The cost of living increase this year is 2.2%. That’s the baseline increase in taxes we knew we were going to get the minute we got out of bed on Tuesday. A 2.2% increase was going to happen.

We are here to decide if we go .8% over that baseline or perhaps 1.5%.

Oliver Wendell Holmes once said that taxes are the price we pay for civilization. So let’s see what kind of civilization that five or ten bucks buys you each day in this our Owen Sound.

Water? You need not go to the Sydenham with an axe in the winter nor trudge up to a spring at the top of Creamery Hill. You enter any one of two or three rooms in your apartment or house, you turn on something called a faucet and water appears. And you need not fear that water because people are paid to ensure it is safe.

Waste? You are not faced with slop buckets in the morning and you need not toss the bucket onto a honey wagon as happened in all cities in the Middle Ages. You simply press a lever beside your toilet and it is gone. And it works because people on the other end are paid to take care of it. As for garbage, every other week somebody comes to within 30 feet of your garage to take the stuff away.

Need to get up Moore’s Hill in the winter? You will find out that miraculously plows appear out of nowhere at five in the morning to salt and sand the pavement the entire way.

And if you still spin out on ice and wrap your car around a tree? Don’t worry – someone with jaws of life will be dispatched within minutes.

Do you wonder if that meal is safe to eat? You can get some comfort from knowing that something called the public health unit is all over restaurant inspections.

If your marriage is getting tense and if you are threatened, press three digits. A cruiser will appear in your driveway within minutes and a woman in blue will offer the protection of the law.

If your kid has his first epileptic seizure, paramedics will appear in a New York minute.

And entertainment? Bring your bored kids to the Harrison ice pad. If your book collection is getting tired, you can enter the great hall that is our local Carnegie and sit with a novel in front of a fireplace. And if it is beauty that you seek, this town will offer you for no admittance charge a room full of Tom Thomson landscapes.

We can have legitimate concerns about certain budget items. I get that. Fire and police are out of control. I bitterly resent the massive taxes they absorb when the funds could do so much more elsewhere. And there will always be more efficiencies found even in this very building.

We are right to be vigilant and that is in fact our duty this week. I get all of that.

But five and a half bucks per day per adult. We cannot and should not apologize for all that this budget manages to deliver for that kind of money.

I repeat Oliver Wendell Holmes. Taxes are the price we paid for civilization. Let’s continue to build a heck of a civilization.

John Tamming
Owen Sound Councillor

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