Politicians, has-been politicians, would-be politicians and everyone else, including me, have had something to say on the yet to explode issue of the missing $3 million debacle at Huntsville Town Hall. Present and past politicos are already starting to throw mud at the one another, keeping their heads down hoping none of the muck tossed their way sticks.
Politics is indeed a dirty game.
Huntsville has been an active arena in the mud-tossing league, at least in the past three terms that I have been keeping track. Not that mud-tossing didn’t happen farther back in the history of Huntsville politics. Over the years, most of Huntsville’s councils have had their fair share of scandals, even if they were carefully concealed. Some scandals and secret dealings, however, surfaced and the mayors and councils of the day were proven to be not as unsoiled as they would have liked us to have believed.
Getting back to our current scandal, this money isn’t really missing; it’s been spent and not paid for. It’s similar to buying a new car and forgetting to get a loan to pay for it.
What’s happened, according to town staff, is that the council of the day agreed to take a debenture for nearly $1 million dollars for the arena but then, somehow, town staff never followed through with the debenture. The other “missing” $2 million comes from G8 expenses that cost more than the amount given by the feds for the projects.
It’s exactly like having daddy give you $20,000 for a car and then you spend $40,000 and forget to finance it. You still have the car, but your bank account is a hell of a lot smaller than you think it is and every once in a while you go into overdraft because you never balanced you cheque book. You’ve been paying interest on your overdraft and getting a lot less in interest that you could have been earning.
The town spent $3 million more than they had and no one noticed – for five years.
That’s the part that I find hard to believe; how can anyone not notice that a quarter of the towns operating budget is not there? Everyone that is, or was, on council must take some responsibility for this. Saying that they couldn’t tell where the money was or had gone doesn’t cut it. They are on council to know these things and while they’re not required to be a chartered accountants, someone at the council table has to stand up and say “show me the money.”
What’s really concerning to me is that the administration at town hall didn’t find the discrepancy until this month. These people make enormous amounts of money and are supposed to be the very best in the industry. It’s not a secret that Huntsville pays around 20 per cent more than the surrounding towns pay for similar jobs. It’s also not a secret that Huntsville has more people on their sunshine list than all the other municipalities in Muskoka combined -that’s also something that any current or former councilor owns.
My question is this: why has it taken five years to figure this out? The money has been spent and money was supposed to be borrowed to cover the cost and it never was. In the real world, heads would roll.
We still have all the things the money bought, so it’s not missing, it’s just not funded. We should be concerned it’s taken this long.
Now comes the part that will hurt, that being how council will fund the “missing” $3 million. Hopefully, the muck tossing won’t be entirely aimed on the taxpayer by way of tax increases. It’s time to borrow some and dip in to the rainy day fund for the majority.
Council: people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. The people and future councils will be equally critical of your efforts. Get your sh*t together.