MidlandCommunity.ca Budgetary remarks- March/28/2018:
Good evening Council, staff and members of the public.
My name is Roy Ellis and I’m speaking on behalf of midlandcommunity.ca.
Please allow me to lead with this message: The new costs you are planning to place on the backs of residents and business is simply unacceptable given our current economic environment.
Tonight you are serving up to the public a draft-operating budget, which currently sits at 3.58% coupled with a rate increase for water and sewer to the tune of 6%. Furthermore, this budget includes adding additional staff at a time when local business is struggling to cope.
For background, we have recently spoken to local business leaders ranging from restaurant owners, landscaping companies, gas station owners, and several small and large size local manufacturers. They comment about the challenges of managing the financial impact of the recent onerous and costly changes to employment and labour in Ontario, introduced January 1st this year, known as Bill 148. Our local businesses do not operate in a vacuum and they and their employees cannot afford to have yet more costs piled on by their Town.
I wish to remind Council that on November 27th, 2017 you established for staff a budget operating guideline of 2.5%. In February of this year you deliberated over the first draft, which came in marginally lower at 2.37%. Some 40 days later we find the public standing before you as you serve up a draft 3.58% budget increase on top of 3.1% last year. What has changed in 40 days? The only thing I’m painfully aware of is heightened potential for lost jobs in the community and a reduction of hours for numerous workers as a result of the Provincial Government’s ‘too much, too quick’ employment and labour law agenda.
Approximately one year ago, at the public portion of the 2017 budget meeting we stood before you and made the following statement:
“It may come as somewhat of a surprise for many to learn that we, midlandcommunity.ca do not take issue with this year’s overall operating budget increase of 3.1%. Are we happy? No, but we acknowledge the fact that base to base, the 2017 budget comes in slightly over 1% when viewed against 2016’s, which is below the rate of inflation. We acknowledge there are a number of “one-time” charges, some of which will, once and for all, place the “mistakes” of the past behind us and will enable us to achieve greater heights. We acknowledge that the need to invest in the development and nurturing of internal talent is real. We accept that staff requires the proper tools to do their job, like technology as an enabler. All in all, we accept that the budget of 2017 is a down payment on the coming prosperity of 2018 and beyond”.
Allow me to repeat- 2017’s budget result of 3.1% to include one time costs is a down payment on our future prosperity. A down payment is different than a steady diet!
We would be foolhardy to stand up here tonight and suggest what you should and should not do. There are 1000’s of line items and capital expenditures to consider and we appreciate it is your job to balance the sentiments of your constituents and rely on the capability of your staff.
However, there are two examples we would like to call out which go to the notion of deferral and judgment- both foundational to having balanced, responsible and effective leadership with the right financial outcome.
The first example when considering the notion of deferral is specific to our capital budget. In this years budget you have allocated $1.5M for a new Fire truck. As everyone in this room knows, we have been patiently awaiting a report from the Fire Chief with respect to efficiencies and savings to include a comprehensive assessment of ‘tiered response’. Without getting into the departmental minutia, the question we pose to you is, are you 100% sure this expenditure is required ever, and if the answer is yes, is it required now?
The second example, which goes to judgment and eventually the operating budget impact, involves the library. Council in this budget has approved $90K as a ‘permanent budget’ expense for library Security.
This perceived security need by the library and Council’s hasty response is affirmation that our current community safety plan isn’t working. While we acknowledge and applaud the difficult decision to go to OPP, one has to ask, why would you earmark $90K on a ‘Permanent’ basis to library security when the OPP have barely arrived on scene? This decision simply makes no sense given the fact you have only recently embraced an organization with greater resources and greater capability at a lower cost. The OPP needs to be leading this discussion given their vast experience and the fact they are providing 33% more patrol officers on duty all the time. It’s apparent to most, they are already making a visible difference.
In summary, midlandcommunity.ca appreciates we cannot cut our way to economic prosperity but we also know we cannot spend our way to get there either.
You may recall, the four North Simcoe municipalities with the help of EDCNS recently hosted a dynamic speaker and author named Doug Griffiths who spoke passionately about his best selling book, ‘13 ways to kill your community’. As an FYI, you will be receiving your personal six-minute summary video in the weeks ahead.
Midlandcommuity.ca suggests there are perhaps ‘14 ways to kill your community’.
The 14th is to spend at a rate greater than our community’s citizens and businesses ability to pay, adjust, and cope.
This dynamic is foundational to the new buzzword of the day, known as “sustainability”.
Thank you and I’d be happy to receive questions at this time.