Transit, social services, Slots money discussed at budget meeting

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

Seniors, students, and community activists this week put up the proverbial orange barriers to block the city's proposed bus fare increases in this year's budget.

Hamilton councillors have indicated they aren't in favour of raising bus fares and passes, but that didn't stop about 20 people turning out to a public budget meeting to condemn any fare hikes in the coming budget.

"I'm very concerned about the cost of a seniors' bus pass," said Bernice Price, who presented a petition signed by, she said, over 300 people. Seniors, especially those on fixed incomes, can't afford the cost of the bus passes even now, she added.

City transit staff have proposed hiking the daily bus fares by 15 cents from the current $2.10 and increasing the monthly passes by $8.50 to $73.50 The yearly senior passes would jump by $40 to $245. Councillors have rejected the idea, but there remains some impetus to increase some fees. They will be discussing the issue during this month's budget deliberations.

Price pointed out Vancouver's senior bus passes cost $45 per year, while Calgary charges $35 per year, and $15 per year for seniors on fixed incomes.

Other residents, during the all-day pubic session, rushed to denounce the hikes.

"Increasing transit fares sends the wrong signal," said Peter Hutton, a Dundas resident and a member of the Hamilton's Transit Users Group."We need to be more visionary."

Tommy Pinbauer, president of the McMaster Students Union, which represents about 18,000 undergraduate students, said about 7,000 students use the HSR every day. A 10 per cent fare increase would force the students to vote whether or not to eliminate the bus pass, he said.

It would mean, added Pinbauer, that Hamilton would lose up to $1.4 million in guaranteed revenue from the students.

City officials have stated the rate hikes would go towards paying the extra $5.6 million in transit expenses, such as fuel, salaries and fleet repairs.

Bus fares have been frozen for the the last two years, resulting in a record amount of people using the service, said Don Hull, director of Hamilton Street Railway system.

The transit service is area rated. So, said city staff, about 90 per cent of any tax increase for transit will be paid by residents living in the former city of Hamilton and Stoney Creek. Flamborough and Glanbrook do not receive transit service, while Ancaster and Dundas receive minimal service.

Some presenters at the meeting offered up other issues for councillors to chew on.

Some made a pitch to increase their groups' funding, while others urged councillors to hold steady on funding social services programs that provide essential help to Hamilton's 100,000 people living below the poverty line.

A few residents said councillors should eliminate the practice of giving bonuses to city staff, or providing large severance payouts to fired employees.

John Hawker, a community activist with the watchdog group Citizens At City Hall (CATCH), urged politicians to be more open and transparent in their budget discussions and how they spend taxpayers money.

And members of the Committee to Free Flamborough (CFF), Roman Sarachman and Stanley Haworth, reminded politicians that former suburban municipalities continue to pay an exorbitant amount of taxes that are then funneled to pay for former city of Hamilton projects.

They demanded taxes in Flamborough be rolled back five per cent this year, that Flamboro Slots revenues remain in Flamborough and not be siphoned off into other city projects and that council reduce then freeze employee wages at 2004 levels.

They even proposed that councillors pursue a casino for downtown Hamilton.

Councillors were this week slated to begin tackling the city's $45 million budget - and a potential tax increase of between 5 per cent to 7.5 per cent.

Politicians approved an average tax increase in 2005 of about 3.2 per cent.

City staff have scheduled seven budget meetings starting with one on January 12. The idea is to present a compete budget proposal for councillors to vote on January 31.

Transit, social services, Slots money discussed at budget meeting

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

Seniors, students, and community activists this week put up the proverbial orange barriers to block the city's proposed bus fare increases in this year's budget.

Hamilton councillors have indicated they aren't in favour of raising bus fares and passes, but that didn't stop about 20 people turning out to a public budget meeting to condemn any fare hikes in the coming budget.

"I'm very concerned about the cost of a seniors' bus pass," said Bernice Price, who presented a petition signed by, she said, over 300 people. Seniors, especially those on fixed incomes, can't afford the cost of the bus passes even now, she added.

City transit staff have proposed hiking the daily bus fares by 15 cents from the current $2.10 and increasing the monthly passes by $8.50 to $73.50 The yearly senior passes would jump by $40 to $245. Councillors have rejected the idea, but there remains some impetus to increase some fees. They will be discussing the issue during this month's budget deliberations.

Price pointed out Vancouver's senior bus passes cost $45 per year, while Calgary charges $35 per year, and $15 per year for seniors on fixed incomes.

Other residents, during the all-day pubic session, rushed to denounce the hikes.

"Increasing transit fares sends the wrong signal," said Peter Hutton, a Dundas resident and a member of the Hamilton's Transit Users Group."We need to be more visionary."

Tommy Pinbauer, president of the McMaster Students Union, which represents about 18,000 undergraduate students, said about 7,000 students use the HSR every day. A 10 per cent fare increase would force the students to vote whether or not to eliminate the bus pass, he said.

It would mean, added Pinbauer, that Hamilton would lose up to $1.4 million in guaranteed revenue from the students.

City officials have stated the rate hikes would go towards paying the extra $5.6 million in transit expenses, such as fuel, salaries and fleet repairs.

Bus fares have been frozen for the the last two years, resulting in a record amount of people using the service, said Don Hull, director of Hamilton Street Railway system.

The transit service is area rated. So, said city staff, about 90 per cent of any tax increase for transit will be paid by residents living in the former city of Hamilton and Stoney Creek. Flamborough and Glanbrook do not receive transit service, while Ancaster and Dundas receive minimal service.

Some presenters at the meeting offered up other issues for councillors to chew on.

Some made a pitch to increase their groups' funding, while others urged councillors to hold steady on funding social services programs that provide essential help to Hamilton's 100,000 people living below the poverty line.

A few residents said councillors should eliminate the practice of giving bonuses to city staff, or providing large severance payouts to fired employees.

John Hawker, a community activist with the watchdog group Citizens At City Hall (CATCH), urged politicians to be more open and transparent in their budget discussions and how they spend taxpayers money.

And members of the Committee to Free Flamborough (CFF), Roman Sarachman and Stanley Haworth, reminded politicians that former suburban municipalities continue to pay an exorbitant amount of taxes that are then funneled to pay for former city of Hamilton projects.

They demanded taxes in Flamborough be rolled back five per cent this year, that Flamboro Slots revenues remain in Flamborough and not be siphoned off into other city projects and that council reduce then freeze employee wages at 2004 levels.

They even proposed that councillors pursue a casino for downtown Hamilton.

Councillors were this week slated to begin tackling the city's $45 million budget - and a potential tax increase of between 5 per cent to 7.5 per cent.

Politicians approved an average tax increase in 2005 of about 3.2 per cent.

City staff have scheduled seven budget meetings starting with one on January 12. The idea is to present a compete budget proposal for councillors to vote on January 31.

Transit, social services, Slots money discussed at budget meeting

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

Seniors, students, and community activists this week put up the proverbial orange barriers to block the city's proposed bus fare increases in this year's budget.

Hamilton councillors have indicated they aren't in favour of raising bus fares and passes, but that didn't stop about 20 people turning out to a public budget meeting to condemn any fare hikes in the coming budget.

"I'm very concerned about the cost of a seniors' bus pass," said Bernice Price, who presented a petition signed by, she said, over 300 people. Seniors, especially those on fixed incomes, can't afford the cost of the bus passes even now, she added.

City transit staff have proposed hiking the daily bus fares by 15 cents from the current $2.10 and increasing the monthly passes by $8.50 to $73.50 The yearly senior passes would jump by $40 to $245. Councillors have rejected the idea, but there remains some impetus to increase some fees. They will be discussing the issue during this month's budget deliberations.

Price pointed out Vancouver's senior bus passes cost $45 per year, while Calgary charges $35 per year, and $15 per year for seniors on fixed incomes.

Other residents, during the all-day pubic session, rushed to denounce the hikes.

"Increasing transit fares sends the wrong signal," said Peter Hutton, a Dundas resident and a member of the Hamilton's Transit Users Group."We need to be more visionary."

Tommy Pinbauer, president of the McMaster Students Union, which represents about 18,000 undergraduate students, said about 7,000 students use the HSR every day. A 10 per cent fare increase would force the students to vote whether or not to eliminate the bus pass, he said.

It would mean, added Pinbauer, that Hamilton would lose up to $1.4 million in guaranteed revenue from the students.

City officials have stated the rate hikes would go towards paying the extra $5.6 million in transit expenses, such as fuel, salaries and fleet repairs.

Bus fares have been frozen for the the last two years, resulting in a record amount of people using the service, said Don Hull, director of Hamilton Street Railway system.

The transit service is area rated. So, said city staff, about 90 per cent of any tax increase for transit will be paid by residents living in the former city of Hamilton and Stoney Creek. Flamborough and Glanbrook do not receive transit service, while Ancaster and Dundas receive minimal service.

Some presenters at the meeting offered up other issues for councillors to chew on.

Some made a pitch to increase their groups' funding, while others urged councillors to hold steady on funding social services programs that provide essential help to Hamilton's 100,000 people living below the poverty line.

A few residents said councillors should eliminate the practice of giving bonuses to city staff, or providing large severance payouts to fired employees.

John Hawker, a community activist with the watchdog group Citizens At City Hall (CATCH), urged politicians to be more open and transparent in their budget discussions and how they spend taxpayers money.

And members of the Committee to Free Flamborough (CFF), Roman Sarachman and Stanley Haworth, reminded politicians that former suburban municipalities continue to pay an exorbitant amount of taxes that are then funneled to pay for former city of Hamilton projects.

They demanded taxes in Flamborough be rolled back five per cent this year, that Flamboro Slots revenues remain in Flamborough and not be siphoned off into other city projects and that council reduce then freeze employee wages at 2004 levels.

They even proposed that councillors pursue a casino for downtown Hamilton.

Councillors were this week slated to begin tackling the city's $45 million budget - and a potential tax increase of between 5 per cent to 7.5 per cent.

Politicians approved an average tax increase in 2005 of about 3.2 per cent.

City staff have scheduled seven budget meetings starting with one on January 12. The idea is to present a compete budget proposal for councillors to vote on January 31.