1) Midland’s 2015 Operating Budget was approved last week. The Town’s overall spending in 2015 will increase by about 2%. With some growth in our assessment base last year, this 2% spending increase results in a 1.38% increase in the tax rate.
Tax bills will be mailed out later this month. In addition to its own taxes, Midland is the collection agent for County and Education taxes. You will see these items separately charged on every tax bill. County and Education taxes have been relatively flat in Midland for many years. This result has little to do with fiscal responsibility or good government that the Town of Midland can take credit for – it is the result of persistent depressed property values in Midland compared to other parts of Simcoe County.
Nobody should rejoice because of this. Previous Councils and staff helped create this situation. Nobody should be crowing about how wonderful it is that existing real estate is cheap in Midland.
That said, we must also acknowledge that a 1.38% increase in local taxes is significant progress from where we were five and ten years ago when Midland’s year-over-year spending increases were often triple the rate of inflation. While in our view, we still need to strip $2 to 3 Million out of the operating budget, well done to all those on Council who remember their election promise.
Coincidentally and to illustrate another indicator of the urgent problem, last week Council received a deputation regarding a 10-year Affordable Housing and Homelessness Prevention Strategy. This important social challenge and opportunity is linked to local employment prospects and in turn to local taxation. Whether you rent or own the place you live, you are directly or indirectly paying the costs of town services. Price them too high and the local economy stagnates.
With that in mind, we remain very concerned, that the Police budget increase was around 7%. This places undue pressure on other services that have to “go without” because policing seems to have some kind of immunity.
While a major part of the problem this year is the loss of approximately $240,000 in record check revenue, there seems to always be some problem that prevents police from returning a budget at or below the rate of inflation.
This is an unhealthy trend and a thorough review of where policing money is spent or misspent needs to take place.
It is ironic the ever-growing demand for taxpayer funding occurs at the same time crime in our community is trending down 40%.
Midland has an entirely new Police Services Board that has inherited many unknowns and budgetary surprises. It is evident change is overdue in the way Police Services are delivered in Midland. Spiraling costs in a low growth environment is not a recipe for success, and is certainly not sustainable for Midland taxpayers.
2) Police (27%) and Fire (13%) now represent 40% of Midland’s annual operating budget.
3) Structure and organizational opportunities for Fire as well as the future of MPUC appear to be getting lots of recent attention from Council. These two items might represent significant opportunities for the Town of Midland but we have nothing to report about them because the discussions have all been held in closed meetings.
4) Doug Ewen from the Economic Development Corporation of North Simcoe (EDCNS) addressed Council on the 2015-2016-business strategy and business plan that EDCNS refers to as, “the power of four”. The power of four means that the four member municipalities (Midland, Penetanguishene, Tay and Tiny) with the support of Simcoe County are embracing growth and development with a focus on four identified areas of opportunity – Advanced Manufacturing, Tourism, Agribusiness and Healthcare.
These are exciting times for North Simcoe as we build on a refreshing level of municipal and County collaboration. One theme from the EDCNS deputation spoke to getting our four Municipalities “investment ready”. This means creating a competitive advantage with the right policy and taxation environment to attract both people and business.
5) As our readers are aware, the town is reviewing changes to the Backflow Prevention By-law. The Town received at least one letter from a concerned resident advising that material comments made at the public meeting were missing from the minutes. Council directed the Clerk to revise the minutes to deal with some of the items omitted.
6) Midland, please note our annual Butter Tart Festival is on June 13th. Be sure to attend and welcome our out-of-town guests with outstanding hospitality.
Roy Ellis on behalf of Midlandcommunity.ca