Chris Holt unveils first campaign policy: improve City's investment strategies
I'm sure you're all wondering why this announcement is taking place in my backyard. I'll start by saying that in this campaign, it's important for me to incorporate events that showcase our platform in ways that resonate with people. To do that, much of what we have planned for the summer will highlight places and experiences that make Windsor and its residents unique. As today's announcement is about strategic investment, our team wants to make this relatable to all, and we needed a location that could do the same. In the end, we realized that the answer was found in our own backyard, literally. So today, I'm going to share a personal story about my own backyard deck. A story that is like the story of many of our residents, who face challenging financial decisions on an ongoing basis.
You see, I believe that every resident in the city has mayoral-like responsibilities of their own when dealing with their finances. Everyone has to manage limited incomes against competing priorities, to meet their needs, goals and dreams. Whether it's high priority infrastructure, like replacing a broken furnace, or recreational spending like putting in a swimming pool, our kitchen tables can look and feel a lot like the table of a municipal council - especially as family members deliberate together to make the best investment decisions for their homes.
Around 7 years ago I won the vote around my kitchen table to build a new deck, the equivalent to replacing a piece of failing infrastructure. Nancy and I valued the peace and quiet a bigger and better deck would give us, and the quality of life we enjoy out here. Lumber was expensive (I think it cost me around $3,000 at the time) and we were debating ways we could make it work, knowing an improved backyard would increase the value of our largest investment - our home.
At the end of the day, we practiced “responsible borrowing” and financed the immediate lumber purchase, opting to continue to grow our investments while taking advantage of record low interest rates; and boy am I glad we did! Lumber prices shot through the roof, increasing by 28% and dwarfing the 1.9% interest rate we borrowed at. We got the added benefit of enjoying the use of the deck immediately and freed up our savings that we used for an emergency car repair we weren't expecting all while leaving our investments to earn a higher rate of return.
Over the last 8 years, our current mayor has been tasked to champion the same kind of wise decisions with our collective money, as you and I make every day for ourselves.
However, under his leadership, the City of Windsor is losing out on millions of dollars due to poor investment decisions; dollars that could go directly to fund amenities for residents across the City.
Here's why: The City of Windsor currently has $333 million in bank accounts that earn less than one per cent a year. If the City, under this Mayor's watch, had invested prudently, the City would have earned an additional $5 to $9 million each year. [1]
We need to do better. We can ensure that your money is being invested in ways that maximize returns and doesn't leave us behind when inflation creeps up. This is not a time for adequate. How can a Mayor that flaunts his fiscal record consistently settle for ADEQUATE?
As your mayor, I would lead City Council to invest the City's reserves in ONE Investment, a non-profit corporation founded by LAS (a corporation of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario) and CHUMS (a subsidiary of the Municipal Finance Officers Association of Ontario). [2]
This is what cities like Markham and Whitby have done to earn millions on the interest of their taxpayers' hard-earned dollars. Communities comparable in size and scope, have shown this to be prudent, safe and low risk.
This is not some risky portfolio or new scheme, this is a sound investment policy created and endorsed by the association of Municipalities of Ontario. We currently have our own Arts Endowment in these funds. Many communities across Ontario now participate in this investment structure.
When we run the numbers and compare them to other cities utilizing this policy option, it is obvious that our city is leaving millions of dollars on the table that should be benefiting our community.
Even using conservative estimates, that would translate to about $6 million per year.
What could our city do with an additional $6 million each year? Here are a few options:
● We could increase our total operating budget by 1.4%, without the need to increase municipal taxes by the same amount.
● We could build 34 new splash pads across the city.
● We could have conducted maintenance on an additional 485km of city roads.
● We could make three times as many bikeway improvements.
● We could absorb anticipated user fee increases that would help keep expenses down for our residents, to help with the impact of inflation that they are feeling.
● OR a combination of a long list of viable options that increase the quality of life for all of us.
That is sound fiscal leadership. And that is what we all deserve.
This is a clear example of what I mean when I say that we leave so much on the table; and that delivering results THAT MATTER, matters more.
Chris Holt
Ward 4 Councillor and Candidate for Mayor of Windsor
Links to relevant documents:
[1] Performance Review of the City of Windsor's investment policy by Bradley Ouellette
[2] Report by the Municipality of Muskoka explaining the ONE investment policy