On Monday May 4th at around 6:30pm, I received a message over Twitter asking me what time the “special” budget meeting was starting. I replied that there is no budget meeting scheduled…(I even headed over to www.orangeville.ca to verify that I hadn’t missed something….nope. No new meeting added to the schedule of council meetings). I was shocked and disappointed to hear that there was in fact a meeting added that no one had bothered to notify the public of…I’m not in any way saying that it was a “secret” meeting, however, there is something shady about not putting the information out until after the meeting is over…especially when so many on council are preaching about transparency. So much for that, I guess. Thank goodness for PVRs cause with one quick phone call home, my kids had it set up to record – no way was I missing this.
Budget Passes with 2.4% Increase
So the long and the short of it is this….Town Council passed a 2.4% tax increase. In an article by the Orangeville Banner, Bill Tremblay reports that this is the highest tax increase that Orangeville has seen since 2010. With that being said, in a recorded vote, Councillors Bradley, Campbell, & Kidd along with Deputy Mayor Maycock and Mayor Williams voted in favour of this increase. Councillor Wilson was the only vote opposed (Councillor Garisto was absent).
To get to the 2.4% number, it took a motion from Deputy Mayor Maycock to reduce the reserve contribution enough that the tax increase would match the current rate of inflation – a reduction of $218,000 to the reserve contribution. The Treasurer spoke up to say that Stats Canada reports the rate of inflation to be 2.4% (hence the magic number). This motion was carried and led to a further motion to send the budget to Council for approval which also carried.
Special Council Meeting
Let me remind you that in a previous budget meeting in March, a motion had passed that all members of council would have to be present in order to pass the budget. This was a motion made by Councillor Campbell which she apologized for making in the first place and was happy to rescind. “I really feel like I shouldn’t have made this motion.”
Councillor Bradley spoke up to suggest that they wait to pass the budget until Councillor Garisto returns, perhaps at the next Council Meeting on May 11th rather than voting without him. She stated that out of respect for his position as Chair of the Finance Committee, it would be the right thing to do.
Mayor Williams made the comment “I do believe that we run the risk of running into some issues if we don’t move forward on this tonight.” What exactly does that mean? Is there something in the Town of Orangeville that came up that pushed for this very last minute meeting? Anyone with information on that comment willing to elaborate? Mayor Williams, perhaps? Town Staff wishing to comment?
However, the motion passed unanimously to rescind that previous motion and go ahead with the vote.
Political Numbers Games
This is where the “politicking” begins. Of course a 2.4% increase is 2.4% higher than was promised by the new Mayor, who began a Zero Percent Pledge during his mayoral campaign and has avidly maintained that stance throughout all 13 budget meetings. So it didn’t take long for the game of numbers to begin. On a Facebook post from Mayor Williams, he states that “0.29% increase passed at budget meeting” -What? What do you mean 0.29%? Well, to play the political numbers game if you blend the tax rate to include the county and education portions of your tax bill, you can come up with this number.
This does NOT change the fact that the Town of Orangeville voted in favour of a 2.4% increase. It also does not change the fact that no real spending issues were dealt with in this budget. I guess it was lucky for those playing the political numbers game that the education and county portions worked in their favour on this one.
In My Humble Opinion…
In my humble opinion, there is something very wrong with the way that this all went down. Don’t get me wrong, when you add the 3 portions of the property taxes together, an increase of around $13 per household isn’t so bad at all – I’m a happy home owner on that note. However, when so many campaigned on a platform of the need for more transparency in the way that the Town of Orangeville conducts its business, this was a pretty shady way to finish up the budget cycle. Every budget meeting to date has seen a pretty full gallery of concerned citizens. At this meeting, it was virtually empty. Coincidence? I think not…
How do you feel about the tax increase? What do you think about the ‘Surprise’ meeting that was not publicized?