October 2015 Deputation to Council

Close up of a man's hands holding a pen and signing a document


Please find below a copy of the deputation made to Midland’s Council in respect to 2016’s operating budget- 1st draft.

The first budget fell significantly short of any responsible target given most if not all Council ran on a platform of reducing spending during last year’s election campaign.

While some might say, “it was only first draft”, those who spend countless hours following the budget process would describe the effort as “incremental”. The first budget attempt lacked thought and innovation which was clearly reflected in the result.

Council MUST provide staff with specific direction to include goals and targets around spending and services in order to achieve competitive positioning with other communities from a taxation point of view. Only then will Midland start to realize its growth potential which is necessary for our future to arrive on schedule.

Operating Budget 2016 for the Town of Midland:

Good evening, my name is Roy Ellis. I will be speaking tonight on behalf of Midlandcommunity.ca.  We thank you for the opportunity to address the 2016-operating budget.

Midlandcommunity.ca has been in existence for 6 years and is actively engaged in most discussions and debates ranging from policy and taxation to economic development.

We enjoy almost 900 likes on Facebook and have 800+ member/contacts who receive timely information on what matters.

A statistic which bears repeating, is, Midland saw a 100% increase in local taxes from 2000-2010, a period when inflation increased at only 25%.  Said differently Council spent at 4X the rate of inflation while the town experienced very little population growth (0.5% per year) and witnessed sizeable job losses across the community.  This foundational tax burden remains an anchor around our necks today.

A big part of past increases is the direct result of a hiring binge, with staff increasing from 139 full-time staff in 2001 to 178 at year-end 2014, an increase of 39. Frankly, we need to surgically re-set our base operating costs so that they’re in line with actual growth during the same period.

On a positive note, some of the decisions of both the previous Council and this Council suggest that you realize being one of the highest taxed communities in Simcoe County stifles growth and prosperity, along with jobs, services and HOPE for our youth.

This Council put a stake in the ground to reduce the operating budget by $1.5 million each year through to 2018 in order to achieve the 75th percentile ranking in Simcoe County.  We will not reach that target by holding spending increases at or around the rate of inflation.  Based on 2015 and 2016’s projections, we’re already $3M short of the stated goal.

When someone is overweight and out of shape, the solution is a change in lifestyle, eating habits and exercise.  We’ve all heard the expression, “No pain, no gain”.  Midland is overweight and out of shape, but in this budget draft, where is the pain required to achieve the stated objectives?

With this as a backdrop, we believe the majority of savings will be found in the delivery of emergency services, planned and managed staff reductions, reining in the disproportionate step pay increases offered in past agreements, contracting out work which can be performed more efficiently by the private sector, and continuing to embrace shared service models with neighbouring municipalities.

A few Facts to drive home the disparity and the opportunity:

1)    Midland’s Fire Service cost Midland ratepayers approximately $1 million more annually than Penetanguishene on a per capita basis.

2)    Midland’s Police Service cost Midland ratepayers approximately $2 million more annually than Penetanguishene, again, on a per capita basis.

No one is beating down the doors of Penetanguishene Town Hall demanding changes to their emergency services – they don’t feel unsafe or threatened.  If Midland spent the same per capita on police and fire, this $3M savings would equate to a 16% reduction in spending.

3)     KPMG advised the previous Council that 26 employees would reach normal retirement with full retiree benefits within three years. While there has been discussion about re-structuring and a re-think about how work gets done, we have observed little progress to date.  The 39 extra staff hired between 2001 and 2014 represent close to $3M in annual staffing costs alone. Given there are very few new residents to serve and little growth in the tax base, how can we possibly justify this number?  Where is the $3 million public benefit tied to these extra 39 staff?

We must focus on getting Midland back to work.  We encourage Council to continue to avoid restrictive, costly and complex policies that achieve no public benefit, such as the Septic By-Law and the Backflow Prevention By-law.  They were small steps in the right direction, and now we need the same rigor and vigor in other policy areas such as liberalizing our sign and home occupation by-laws. We believe governments should be fostering a positive environment for growth instead of creating impediments; said differently, less is often best.  This approach will support Midland being more business friendly and investment ready.

You paid KPMG good money to advise you on cost reduction, and this deputation has outlined additional areas of potential improvements.  Please take the next step.  Implement the KPMG recommendations and make the changes necessary to realize your own strategic plan.

Please cut back your appetite for unnecessary spending.  Return the savings to the ratepayers and/or direct them toward activities to encourage growth and economic development.

Embark on Midland’s weight loss program before the impact on the Town’s health becomes terminal.

Thank you. I’d be happy to take questions at this time.

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