Wednesday September 25th saw about 15-20 people attend a public meeting of Council to listen and/or comment on the 1st draft of the proposed budget for 2014. This budget proposes any where from $600,000- to $1,000,000- in new spending that roughly translates to a 4% to 6% tax increase. Eight deputations were made to Council, many by our members.
Several deputations focused on the need for Council to act on the staffing recommendations contained in the KPMG report on Town operations. KPMG identified 26 retirements over a 4-year period that will allow Council to reduce its work force up to 22%. This will allow Midland the opportunity to view work differently and importantly, the manner in which it get’s done. This reduction could occur without painful layoffs and severance costs.
One deputation encouraged Council to think out of the box about housing regulations and zoning. It was suggested that innovative practices in this area alone would free up money within the local economy and improve opportunities for generation ‘Y’ and seniors alike. Another presentation spoke to the possibility of Midland creating ‘Midland dollars’ to stimulate the economy.
All deputations spoke to the need to recognize the changes in the economic realties of Midland and our changing demographics. All called for restraint in spending and most called for Council to make the tough decisions arising from the KPMG report. The net effect of KPMG’s recommendations was an opportunity to realize savings upwards of $2,000,000-. Overall the message was:
- ·Stay the course on cost containment,
- ·Think out of the box to create a friendlier tax and regulatory environment as well as,
- ·Think & act differently to encourage new growth.
The next budget meeting will be held in Council chambers at 6:00 PM on Thursday October 17th. Please plan to attend to show Council you care how they spend your money.
The Midlandcommunity.ca deputation as presented by Roy Ellis is attached below.
BUDGET. The following are notes in response to the Town of Midland calling a special meeting of Council, for the purpose of soliciting comments from the public on 2014 ‘s budget. September 25th/2013.
1) First, let me thank you for the opportunity to address Council this evening- My name is Roy Ellis- resident, taxpayer, local investor, Airport Commission member, financial donor and community volunteer. Lastly and proudly, I’m also the spokesperson for Midlandcommunity.ca, a community based group, with over 600 members whose mission is to help Midland’s future arrive on schedule.
2) I would first like to begin my remarks by talking about your job, your customers, and the people you represent. Only with this graphic picture in mind, will we gain clarity around what we need to do each and every day we discuss our Town’s business: both the challenges and the opportunities.
3) Your customers are the taxpayers. Who are they? Many are out of work, many are looking for work, many are single mom’s and dad’s, many are retirees on fixed income, and only a fortunate few have “plum” jobs and meaningful pensions; only these fortunate few, the minority, remain immune to the broader economic hardship experienced by the majority.
4) Midland’s reality is that we have virtually NO growth. We witness low average household incomes. We fight high unemployment, we wrestle with high taxation, we have desperately low property values, and we experience a declining youth population. The list goes on.
5) Your Job, our job, is to create a business friendly community obsessed with growth, to reduce Municipal red tape, to drive efficiencies in all that we do, to crystallize and support a unified vision, and to listen to our customer base.
6) However, the primary reason we’re here tonight is to discuss what a responsible and efficient operating budget might look like. A budget which responds to maintaining acceptable service levels, yet earmarks resources, both people and money toward fueling the “Engine of Growth”; said differently, putting focus and resources behind driving our local economy and in turn, improving our resident’s quality of life.
7) The exercise then, is quite simple- While Midland has virtually 0 net growth in both business and population, you, Council and senior town staff, the DECIDERS, don’t have permission from the taxpayers to spend above the rate of inflation, which is less than 2%.
8) When you do spend more than you have permission to spend, you hurt your customers financially and economically and in affect force them to make painful personal choices because you didn’t do the job you were elected to do- shame on us.
9) Let’s recap where we are with the budget process to date and see how close we are to achieving our target. First cut, many departments are proposing an increase upward of 2% and some are flirting with 6%. Adding it all up, it looks like and feels like somewhere between 4%-7%; yes over $1 million dollars
10) Our challenge. This Council is dealing with a major cultural shift, moving away from an operating environment with a propensity to spend; a culture that evolved over the past 10-20 years. Some on Council continue this culture to the detriment of more progressive Councillors. Progressive Councilors see the need for change, the need for greater financial accountability and who at great political risk, have commenced the journey toward a state of “REASONABLENESS”. Over the last 2-3 years, some members of Council and staff have changed the discussion, they’ve started to rein in spending and reverse the trajectory. As painful as it is and was, we support and applaud you.
11) Yes these are indeed difficult, challenging and uncomfortable times. But, know, and accept that this represents our “NEW REALITY”. We can no longer spend our way to prosperity. Let me provide a quick gut check for all here this evening. Very few people in business here in Midland will see their revenues grow 1-2% in 2014, if at all. Very few pensioners will see their fixed income packet increase by more than 1%, if at all, and very few private sector employees will receive a pay raise that might rival the rate of inflation. For those that don’t have work, we owe them focused and rationale behaviour and more importantly, we owe them opportunity, with a sense of urgency.
12) In closing, knowing most of your customers, the citizen’s of Midland are capped in their earnings potential, how can Midland Town, in clear conscious, spend beyond your customer’s capacity and ability to pay?
This Council and senior staff are mandated to embrace 0% and 2% respectively. It is high time we all step up to the plate and get the job done or in the alternative, those that can’t or won’t, need to step aside.
Roy Ellis on behalf of Midlandcommunity .ca