Budget talks started for Town of Orangeville Council on Monday night with the introduction of the Operating Budget. Tuesday night there was another Budget Meeting to continue some of Monday’s conversations and to start the conversations about the Capital Budget.
In my last post, I questioned some of the conversations on social media calling it a zero percent increase after the Treasurer had talked about it being a 4.5% increase. THANK YOU to Councillor Scott Wilson for starting the budget talks by calling that out and calling a spade a spade. “We had the quick summary from Mr. Villeneuve at our last meeting and some comments were made about a 4.5% increase. Social media has it reported that there will be a Zero % real increase in taxes in 2017 and I understand that to mean that taxes will not go up. I have contacted the treasurer and he has clarified that as the budget stands right now with no changes, taxes will go up.” Councillor Wilson said and explained the 1% being covered by growth and the other 3.5% being covered by existing taxpayers “Everybody’s assessment is phased in. Therefore everybody will be having a property assessment increase. Therefore everybody will be having a property tax increase. That message has to get out to the public because the way it has been portrayed on social media is that there is no increase in property taxes in 2017. That is something we’ve got to make clear is that right now there is an increase proposed and we have to reduce at least $1.1 million from the proposal to increase the likelihood that there won’t be a property tax increase in 2017.”
Mayor Williams continues to defend that this IS in fact zero percent – on social media, he continues to call this “simple math” and his comment in reply to Councillor Wilson was “It’s like most numbers, you can look at it all sorts of different ways.” and continued on to say “I think we’re at a good level (of services) and I think most people are happy with it. To me, a budget that stays within that and stays within inflation, to me that is ideal. That is zero.”
So here is the thing about math, in my humble opinion. Math is black and white. Nowhere in math is 4.5% the same as 0%. Nowhere in math is inflation the same as zero percent…unless of course inflation rates are actually 0%. In school, math is not open for interpretation in the same way english is. While I’m glad to hear that the assessments will cover a great deal of the cost to taxpayers, to imply that it is the same as Zero is just deceitful marketing and clever manipulation of numbers. If the average household will see at least $125 increase on their annual taxes, that’s not zero. I don’t know about everyone else in Orangeville, but I am getting pretty tired of the wordsmith games to make it all sound good. Let’s try putting the politics aside and try some honesty instead.
I don’t care how you spin the numbers or choose to ‘interpret’ them…4.5% (or now 4.7% after Tuesday’s meeting) IS NOT zero percent.
Fire Department Budget
There was an in-depth discussion through both Monday and Tuesday’s meetings about one of the items that was added into the Operating Budget this year…the hiring of 4 Full-Time Firefighters. This was an item from the Fire Master Plan that was presented to Council back in 2015 and explained that 10 Firefighters would have to be hired over a 3-year time span to ensure timely response times and to ensure the safety of the Town Residents and also the safety of the firefighters. Now don’t get me wrong…this venture is not a cheap one. But I have to say, with the growth Orangeville has seen, it seems to me that this is the direction our Fire Department should be going.
On Tuesday, Councillor Campbell put forward a motion to include the hiring of 4 firefighters in 2017. The motion failed with only Councillors Campbell & Wilson voting in favour. Deputy Mayor Maycock then put forward a motion to defer this item to the 2018 budget and requested that staff bring a report with a full business model for the Fire Department – this motion passed 5-2 with Councillors Campbell and Wilson voting against. So, there will be no changes to the current Fire Department in 2017.
I’d love to know what you think of this…do you think it is time for our Fire Department to grow into a 24-hour full-time department?
Reserves – The dirty word
Throughout 2016, money was taken from reserves for 2 items and motions were made at previous Council meetings to repay that money during the 2017 budget. A motion was put forward by Mayor Williams to forgo repaying that money to reserves (totalling around $330,000). Councillors Wilson, Campbell and Kidd very quickly spoke up stating that this was the wrong direction and the reason that the motions were put forward at prior meetings was to ensure the reserves weren’t being depleted with no intentions of repayment. Councillor Garisto spoke up stating that he was ready to put forward a motion to take $1 million dollars out of the reserve contributions…thankfully he garnished no support for that idea.
I am continually baffled at how there is no recommendations to actually REDUCE SPENDING and instead the thought process seems to head to reserves. Keep spending more….stop saving….Where is the logic in that?!?! I want to see relief in my taxes…but I also want to see our Town prosper….and yes there are ways to make both things happen – we just need Council to make some tough decisions.
End of Day 2
So, by the end of Tuesday, the Operating Budget has been approved, but there is still some work to do on the Capital Budget and as such, the motion to approve that part of the budget was defeated. The next budget meeting is scheduled for Monday, November 7th, 2016.
I want to hear from you! What would you like to see happen before this budget is approved? Are you okay with yet another increase? Share your thoughts!!