Two Year Review as Chair, Corporate and Financial Services

While Council meets as a five-person body to make decisions about the Town’s direction, much of the discussion on the issues takes place at the Committee level, where each Councillor chairs a different area of the Town’s operation.

I am halfway through my four-year term as Councillor, and I want to share some of the accomplishments the Town has made over the past two years while I was Chair of Corporate and Financial Services.  I’ve inserted links where available if you would like more information.

  1. Council adopted a Social Media Strategy that lays out how the Town will begin to engage in sites like Facebook & Twitter. It has been recognized as a best practice by the Association of Municipalities of Ontario on the Ontario Municipal Knowledge Network .
  2. The Town’s website has been refreshed & re-launched to better reflect how the public accesses information and resources.
  3. Our page in the Era has been revamped (twice!) in order to give residents more information about Council activities and community happenings.
  4. An e-newsletter was launched that delivers Town Page information directly to residents’ in-boxes. (You can sign up by clicking HERE).
  5. Streamlined budget process: we delivered 3 back-to-back budgets aligned at or below inflation.  Being among the first in York Region to adopt our annual budgets also meant early tenders, resulting in hundreds of thousands dollars saved for our taxpayers.
  6. Council adopted a Town Sign Strategy and Design Concepts that allowed for new electronic signage at key town facilities, as well as laid out plans for gateway, community and other signage to be installed in the next few years.
  7. Enhanced Council accountability – Council adopted a new Fundraising Policy involving members of Council.
  8. Staff researched and reported on a cost-effective way to record & archive Council & Committee meetings, quoting $5000 in equipment & $3000 in on-line archiving compared to the high six-figures quoted in other municipalities. You can read the report HERE.
  9. Operating Efficiencies such as new photocopiers with fax-in ability which eliminated several unnecessary phone lines; no fee Corporate Visa cards, with bonus cash back based on purchasing totals across the entire organization; and a new Investment Policy that will see our investment income grow.
  10. Recruited new Deputy Treasurer and HR Manager. We traded expensive outside consultants’ bills for salaries that mean expertise remains with the Town, and builds our bench strength.

I recently assumed the role of Chair, Community Programs and Infrastructure, our largest Town Department.  I am looking forward to continuing to serve our community in this capacity, and I anticipate sharing more success stories with you.

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.

My First Post!

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit this page. The residents of East Gwillimbury are facing a time of unprecedented change and growth. The members of Council to be elected this fall are going to shape the look and feel of our Town for generations to come. We need new ideas and new energy on our Municipal Council to improve the quality of life for all residents and businesses, both present and future. I respectfully request your support (and above all, your vote!) to elect me as Councillor in the Town of East Gwillimbury on October 25th. Please, take some time to add your comments and start a dialogue about what is important to YOU. I believe that effective representation requires collaboration and communication.

 

Thank you, Tara