According to the official Town of Princeton website, the proposed aquatic centre is projected to run at an operating deficit of $597,000 per annum. To service this operating deficit and the loan required to fund the actual construction of the aquatic centre, it is proposed that a parcel tax, estimates for which vary significantly, but which have been put as high as $361 per property per annum, will have to be levied against all eligible properties in Princeton and some 3,344 eligible properties in Area H.
Recently, a petition presented to the RDOS in which over 900 of the residents of Area H indicated their opposition to the proposed $361 per property parcel tax by asking the RDOS to allow the referendum votes from Area H to be counted separately form those of Princeton itself. This request was approved by the RDOS.
In just over a week, a large majority of the property owners in Area H will be closing their properties for the season before heading home for the winter – property owners that businesses in Princeton rely on for a significant portion of their annual income. Area H summer residents buy their groceries and produce here, their gasoline and perhaps their summer clothes. They have their vehicles serviced and repaired here – they buy their newspapers here too.
Have we deliberately waited until after the summer residents have gone to hold a referendum they don’t want? Some might feel that it’s too much of a coincidence to be otherwise.
Mayor McLean has removed himself from a “front and centre” hands on roll in this whole issue by indicating that he would rely on the decisions of the independent committee of experts. To my mind, that amounts to nothing more than an abdication of responsibility on the mayor’s part. As the mayor, he has the obligation to be “front and centre” and he has the obligation to lead from the front.
An aquatic centre is a great idea – it’s a nice thing to have, if it is affordable. Proposing a fiscal annual operating deficit of $597,000 in today’s economy for a town the size of Princeton and then, pursuing a convoluted and time consuming referendum to approve it, when a significant number have already indicated their disapproval, makes no sense.
In an era of increasing fiscal responsibility, Mayor McLean must now take the leadership role. He must step in, apply impartial common sense to this whole matter and put a stop to a costly and largely unwanted referendum before the residents of this area are saddled with an overwhelming debt for generations to come.