September was a month to remember not only for Council and senior staff, but also for the community, which became divided on several important matters. Council wrestled with several emotionally charged, high stakes decisions from the development of Edgehill Park to deputations by frustrated citizens addressing poorly handled planning matters and complaining about getting run-around by the Town.
We have to give Council credit for having some difficult and controversial conversations that do matter. However a “D” grade would be in order for communication, process and transparency.
Past Councils have typically “played it safe” by avoiding discussions and decisions about Police costs, the current Fire delivery model, the number of staff required to deliver Town services, responsible compensation and benefits for staff, the location for a Health Care hub, the possible sale of MPUC, the Midland Bay Landing development plan etc.
It is indeed a new day as we begin to actually deal with these systemic problems and emerging issues. We can only hope that Council and staff get more things right than wrong as they continue the quest to make Midland’s future arrive on schedule.
This week we got our first taste of next year’s operating budget. In a word, the effort was “incremental” at best. Staff introduced a 2016 budget that is basically staying the course from 2015. And this budget is still incomplete, as it does not include the Police budget, which currently makes up more than 25% of total spending. It is our view that this preliminary budget will exceed 2% once Police, Fire and other staff compensation matters are concluded. Staff are also seeking to add two new employees which midlandcommunity.ca vehemently opposes given the fact that we have seen the employee base grow 39 positions from 2001- 2014 with virtually no population or business growth.
Council has adopted a very ambitious goal to reduce the operating budget by $1.5 million each year until 2018 to achieve the 75th percentile ranking across Simcoe County. While ambitious, it is also a very necessary target. But we cannot hope to reach that goal by simply bumping along and failing to address the fundamental core issue of payroll and related costs. For example, based on 2015 and 2016’s projections, we’re already $3 Million short of the goal.
Midland we still have much work to do!
CALL TO ACTION:
Please mark your calendars and plan to attend the public budget meeting on Wednesday October 7th, 6:00 pm at Town Hall. You will have an opportunity to present your thoughts and concerns to Council during 5-minute time slots.
Midlandcommunity.ca will be making a presentation on your behalf and will be building on the themes above.
The Midland Public Library Board is developing a new Strategic Plan to guide us through the many challenges our library is faced with today. The Library Board is working to develop goals and objectives and is reaching out to the community for feedback.
Please take a few moments to complete the survey which is available on the Midland Public Library website www.midlandlibrary.com or in hard copy at the Library.
The Question: “Many comparable towns have fewer members of Council than Midland. Do you agree Midland Council should operate with 7 members instead of 9 and reallocate the savings of approximately $70,000 annually”?
Roy Ellis on behalf of midlandcommunity.ca
Midland Matters, You Matter, Getting Involved Matters