We need you to mark your calendars now for 2 important dates Monday, October 24th at 7:00 p.m. (top priority) and Thursday, October 20th at 5:30 p.m., both meetings in the Council Chambers at Midland Town Hall.
Midland Council is in the process of establishing the Town’s budget for 2012. When finalized, this budget determines the taxes we will all be paying for Town services in 2012.
As it stands now, Town staff has presented Council with a proposed Operating Budget that would see the Town’s spending increase by 5.2% next year. New staff requests by Department Heads, if approved, would add another 2% on top of the 5.2% proposed budget.
If we are going to avoid another year of high spending increases, we need to let Council know that is just not acceptable. The most convincing way to deliver that message is by as many of us as possible showing up in person at the meetings when Council makes its spending decisions for next year.
October 24th is the evening we present a deputation to Council, titled “The Case for Controlling Midland Town Spending”. The deputation will show Midland spends more to provide local services than most comparable Towns and Midland’s taxes are very high as a result. You will likely see additional highlights of our presentation in the local newspapers soon.
PLEASE mark these dates and come out to support our effort to limit future property tax increases. And if you want additional background and details before then, please read on:
In order to guide Town staff in preparing the 2012 budget, Council previously adopted the following targets:
1. KEEP THE NON-PAYROLL RELATED OPERATING EXPENSES TO 1% INCREASE OVER LAST YEAR.
2. ANY INCREASE IN STAFFING LEVELS BE EXCLUDED FROM FIRST DRAFT ESTIMATES AND ADDRESSED UNDER SEPARATE COVER.
3. AND, FOR THE 2012 AND 2013 CAPITAL, KEEP WITHIN A 1 % INCREASE OVER LEVELS APPROVED FOR 2011, ELIMINATING ONE-TIME PROJECTS FOR WHICH SPECIAL GRANTS WERE RECEIVED FROM OUTSIDE FUNDING SOURCES.”
The first draft of the capital budget was presented on September 15th. While no comparison to the target was provided that night, it appeared capital spending in 2012 would be close to target. The interesting debate surrounds a request from the Fire Chief to borrow more than $800,000 to purchase a new aerial truck which would add approximately $67,000 to the budget each year for the next 20 years. We think this request should be denied because the truck would replace one we already own that is quite functional and fully paid for. Furthermore, Fire Department spending per household already increased 97% from 2000 to 2009 – the highest per household spending among the 14 municipalities we studied.
The first look at the operating budget was presented to Council on September 29th. George Dixon and Stewart Strathearn attended on our behalf and report there remains much work required on this front. The first draft shows an increase of $888,727, a 5.2% increase over the 2011 approved budget. The elephant in the room is payroll costs that are escalating at an alarming rate. Payroll costs alone account for approximately $578,000 of the total requested $888,727 increase.
As far as the requests for additional staff are concerned, it is clear to us that they should be denied and that Fire and Police will have to look at new approaches/models going forward to contain their escalating costs. These two departments collectively represent $36 of every $100 we pay in taxes to the Town.
At the conclusion of the September 29th meeting, a majority of Councilors seemed prepared to “explore” workforce management alternatives, likely through attrition, as a means of easing budget pressures. However three members of the seven present that night also had little apparent difficulty supporting the draft budget as submitted.
Unlike some Councilors, we believe it is quite possible to reduce costs without reducing services. We think a 0% increase in the taxes Midland charges next year is a reasonable and achievable target. Without any tax increase, Council will still have more money to spend next year due to additional revenue that comes from new assessment. In 2011 for example, revenue from new assessment would have allowed Midland to spend $560,000 (3.9%) more without any tax increase. We recognize a strong case can be made to decrease spending immediately to put our house in order sooner. But if we can stop the bleeding and hold taxes flat for a number of years, in time “reasonable and responsible” might be words once again used to describe property taxes in Midland.
Please show your support for those on Council who are looking critically at the budget with a view to stopping the insanity of runaway tax increases. These are tough decisions they will be making on our behalf and we need to let them know we are behind them. Write your Councilor, Mayor and Deputy Mayor and show up at the budget meetings. Finally, don’t forget to show up at our deputation on the 24th at Council’s meeting at the Town Hall starting at 7 p.m.
Please confirm your attendance for the October 24th deputation (7 p.m.) by replying to Joan Strathearn at firstname.lastname@example.org and if possible, please also try to make the budget meeting on October 20th (5:30 p.m.).
Thanks for what you’re about to do!
Roy Ellis on behalf of Midlandcommunity.ca