Comments on the 2012 Business Plan and Budget

I wanted to share the comments I made in Council on December 19th 2011 when we voted to pass the 2012 Budget. We were the first in York Region to do so, which means we can tender our projects early and potentially save significant tax dollars. We have also planned to do a mid-year budget review to confirm those savings and possibly implement projects that were not included in the initial 2012 business plan.

“I have thought long and hard about the results of this year’s budget process. I am happy with the overall results we have achieved, namely keeping the Town’s portion of the municipal property tax increase to 2.1%, well below that of the current rate of inflation, which is presently running closer to 3%. These are uncertain economic times, with financial instability in both near and far-flung places having the ability to impact us, thanks to the increasingly linked global economy. Closer to home, the uncertainty of the timing of our sewer servicing projects means that we are prudent to put the brakes on growth-related projects and initiatives. All of this to say that I think that we are wise to bring in a budget that could be considered a ‘maintenance’ budget. The overall goal was for us to maintain our current levels of service with the expectation that we will not be over-extending ourselves with large new initiatives and projects.

“However, despite the goal for us to bring forward a maintenance budget, we did increase service levels in some areas of the Town, and are providing for some new resources in this business plan. While some of them, the additional full-time firefighter, for example, I support for reasons of public safety, there are others for which I was vocal about my opposition, a position I expressed throughout the budget review process.

“From my perspective, while I am in support of the 2.1% property tax increase, I would have preferred to see us spend that revenue envelope in a different fashion. There were a number of new initiatives for consideration in the budget and business plan that the Budget Committee did not support, and there were other projects that Committee requested further information on. Some of those projects I am strongly in favour of, including the provision of a skateboard park, additional staffing support for the Library, the recording of our Committee & Council meetings, and the creation of an initiative to support and incubate the arts and culture in our Town. I am very hopeful that at our mid-year budget review, we will be able to bring forward some of those projects, and, with the additional information we have requested, be able to find the funding resources to give them the green light and make them a reality.

“Further, I have also put forward a motion proposing that we begin the discussion about an electoral review. Through the establishment of an ad hoc committee, we will not be spending significant tax dollars on a review, but we will at least start talking about it.”

That motion was:

“Be It Resolved That: In addition to the 2012 Business Plan and Budget presented in Corporate and Financial Services Report CFS2011-50, Council approve the undertaking of the first phase of an electoral review through the establishment of an ad hoc advisory committee to Council. Council directs staff to prepare a report with proposed terms of reference for such a committee, and report back to Council in the early part of 2012. The advisory committee would examine the various electoral systems available to the Town, as well as those employed in other Ontario municipalities and report back to Council.”

This motion passed.

As always, I look forward to receiving your comments, concerns and questions. I wish you and yours all the very best for a prosperous, happy and safe 2012.