The 2011 budget process for Midland can only be characterized as painful. Nonetheless, council and staff have made some movement to add more rigor/discipline around the process and have turned their creativity up a notch with their proposed (MPUC) dividend increase, among other things. Perhaps they recognize the quiet revolt happening not only in Midland but also across the Province. Communities are demanding not only tighter controls on spending but also greater transparency and accountability and not only in the budget process but also on the part of both the civil service and council in all matters.
Recognizing the foregoing and after somber second thought the morning after the council meeting, several facts are inescapable, NOTWITHSTANDING THE APPEARANCE OF A 2% PROPERTY TAX INCREASE.
FACT: in 2011, a $1.1 million spending increase or 7% is still contemplated over last years budget. FACT: approximately $560,000 or 3.8% of the increased spending is masked by an increase in the assessment base for 2011. FACT: the $1.1 million increase is in addition to a water and sewer increase projected in excess of 14%. FACT: this is before the county charges/increases that will be passed along to us.
FACT: marginal population growth in Midland. FACT: no new town services. FACT: declining industrial/commercial tax base. FACT: no economic development stimulus money in the budget. Fact: no money for a strategic planning session at council level. FACT: an increased financial burden to seniors and for that matter, all residents that no one wants or can afford.
Despite the glimmer of hope that council and staff are starting a new fiscally prudent course, the facts still show Midland’s budget falling short of expectation.
The new addition to assessment base alone should be adequate to respond to the new/expanded services required.
Given the facts above will in all likelihood be enshrined in the 2011 budget in two weeks time, how will the community GRADE council’s success managing this year’s budget process? The decisions council make in the next 10 days will for the most part form our tax base going forward, and given history, will be virtually impossible to undo.
Roy Ellis and Stewart Strathearn on behalf of the coalition for fair taxes