For each and every one of the 490,268 (and counting)
people who call Hamilton home, there will be at least
one idea of what the city should do with $137
million in "found money."
This is the money owed by Hamilton Utilities Corp. for
the Hamilton Hydro assets that the people in this city
paid for over the years.
It may be a windfall, it may be a godsend,
and it is certainly, as Mayor Bob Wade notes, "our
largest cash asset."
The question is how it can most benefit the city
as a whole and over the long term.
Hamilton's current operating deficit projects a tax increase of 6
per cent. That's on top of a 2002 water rate
increase of 12 per cent. The city's budget woes give
rise to ideas of using the money for short-term tax
There is no worse idea, in our view, than to
use this asset for subsidizing the city's operating costs. It
would squander an opportunity to improve Hamilton's long-term economic and
But, the argument goes, if an individual has money in
the bank, shouldn't he or she use that to pay
off debts before spending it on other things? The answer
to us lies in the fact that in the larger
picture of the city's billion-dollar annual budget, $137 million is
not a lot of money. One councillor calls it a
drop in the bucket.