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Councillor - Town of Blue Mountains

Blog/The Political Will to do Nothing!

By now you will have read or heard that the Town’s 2015 Budget has been approved.

The Town’s tax levy at 5.43% and an a final blended tax rate at 1.28% would seem fair to the ordinary taxpayer but there are a number of items (or wants) that, in my opinion, have been added to take advantage of the County’s low tax rate. Because our budgeting process works based on budget on budget and not on actual spending, some of these costs get carried over and are paid for in perpetuity (forever).

At the March 30th Council meeting I proposed that a number of one-time and low-cost capital projects, being paid by you through your tax dollars in 2015, could have been eliminated by allocating some of the monies ($728,621) being refunded from the County. I’m also worried about 2016 and 2017 when the Town levy is projected to be 7.3% and 7.7%, respectively. It’s almost certain that we won’t be receiving a -2.0% tax rate from the County, in fact I would bet that it will be closer to +2.0% next year. So the blended tax rate in 2016 and 2017 could be closer to 4.0% or 5.0%.

I stated at the meeting that utilizing the one-time County refund to reduce capital projects from taxation in 2015 and between 2016-2018 (my projected term of office), would not impact the operational portion of the budget in 2015 and beyond. Here are some of the projects that I have identified:

1)     Thunderhill Road’s Project – pay the $296,000 that is necessary for road improvements and that is proposed to be paid back via taxation through an internal loan; eliminate the $59,200 per annum to be paid back through taxation; this would certainly reduce the tax levy from 2015-2018.

2)    Pay the $60,000 that has been allocated for a new website design through taxation in 2015;

3)    Pay $40,000 that has been allocated for two fire station additions through taxation in 2015;

4)    Pay $40,000 that has been allocated for a new Parks Operation Building through taxation in 2015;

5)    Pay $5,000 that has been allocated for a new Table in the BVCC through taxation in 2015;

6)    Pay $70,000 that has been allocated for the Thornbury West End Project (adjacent to Sobeys) through taxation in 2015;

7)    Pay $9,275 that has been allocated for new furniture in the Planning Department through taxation in 2015;

8)    Set aside monies in reserve to pay for the Town’s commitment to the Meaford Hospital over 2015-2017 or $25,000 per year from taxation.

The list goes on……

This whole ‘scary’ idea or uncertainty of when the money will be received is “hogwash”, and just an excuse to delay making any decisions on how to spend the money (at least, none of my suggestions). It also demonstrates that the rest of Council is not prepared to help provide you savings in 2015.

The County approved their Budget in early February, 2015, almost two months ago, and have committed the funds to us in 2015. We can easily transfer funds from one reserve to another, which has been clearly demonstrated in the 2014 year-end transfers. I also read that many of the surrounding municipalities have already allocated how they will spend their refunds (savings to their taxpayers).

Am I happy about this budget? Definitely not, and I didn’t vote for it (I declined to vote which, in effect, is a no vote). I have some issues, one being Tomahawk, which is heavily subsidized and operates under a poor or non-existing business plan.

I believe that the Town staff (Ruth Prince and Sam Dinsmore) have done a terrific job in presenting a budget at 2.85% and have separated a number of proposed additions or wants (once called enhancements by Departmental Heads). However, in the end, the staff got everything they wanted and the ratepayers got nothing in the way of tax savings.

Could we have done better job with the Town 2015 Budget? Absolutely, but it’s obvious to me that  there is no political will by this Council to make changes.