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Councillor - Town of Blue Mountains

2014 Budget Season Starts

President’s Report – 2014 Budget Season Starts

The Director of Financial Services announced the beginning of the Budget Season on June 17th asking Council how much can he raise the base budget for 2014 that will support the Town’s current level of services. Ardiel, McKean, McKinlay and Halos voted for the 2013 projection at 5.6%, while Gamble and Martin opposed. That was simple, but that’s not the end – watch out because the police services contract and salary increases in 2014, more planning studies, unknown staff salary and wage increases including cost of living, reduced provincial funding, increased capital spending, etc ., have not been factored in. Oh yes, those enhancements or ‘the wish list’ also needs to be considered.

The budget process takes about 4 months to deliberate usually ending around the end of February of the following year – this time in 2014, an election year. I wonder – will we get the same “don’t debate, don’t discuss and don’t listen” 2013 budget process, where this Council basically ignored the general public concerns and hit us with a 6.31% tax increase over 2012 budget amounts (not actuals)? Be prepared for the same old line, “the actual percentage increase to a Blue Mountains’ residential property owner will be much lower when the Town tax levy is blended (or disguised) with the County and Provincial rate changes.”

The BMRA Budget Review Committee will follow the process very closely and provide you updates on where the Town plans to spend our future tax dollars. The Committee has already identified a ‘FUZZY’ list of items of operational and capital costs that need to be addressed during budget deliberations. Stay tuned!

I’m sure the Budget will be dealt with quickly, especially going into an election year (October 27th, 2014). The incumbents don’t want any controversies that may upset their re-election chances- – so they may give the perception of a “lame duck” Council, even though they’re not restricted in serious debate and making decisions until after Nomination Day (September 12th, 2014). We are led to believe that everyone on council, with the exception of Mayor Anderson, is running again for another 4 years (ouch!). This past Council has proven that years of service and experience no longer add up to good leadership, good governance and finding workable solutions. In my opinion and worth repeating, this Council strikes me as a group that is tired, out-dated and out-of touch with the challenging issues before them.

Rumor has it that Duncan McKinlay and Gail Ardiel are already out looking for support (I must be careful not to say campaigning) for a potential run at Mayor and Deputy Mayor, respectively. Could they be acclaimed? I hope not but we need more candidates for a challenge or else it will be the ‘same old, same old’.

We need to find candidates, who are willing to learn more about the policies and procedures that govern meetings, who want to understand the issues and be prepared to provide a strong voice at the council table, who care more about good governance than the money, who can provide more open and transparent leadership and who find more workable and affordable solutions to community needs and business concerns. If that’s you, then you should get to work on your campaign now.

As for my own intentions, I need to ask myself “am I now qualified and am I ready to spend 4 years dealing with Town bureaucracy?” As President of the BMRA, I have already spent the last 7 years (or the last two Council periods) debating Council decisions and bringing awareness and opinion to the community concerns through the BMRA newsletters, BMRA website blasts, deputations to Council, writing position papers, heading up special committees, representing the BMRA on the Blue Mountain Watershed Trust Foundation (as Secretary-Treasurer) and on the Community Policing Committee. I guess that qualifies me but can I be as effective in dealing with bureaucracy – that’s what scares me. Whatever my decision, I will need your support.

In other news, Council has decided to have another STA Licensing By-law workshop on October 28th, 2013, signaling another delay in what should be a firm commitment to move forward with licensing STA businesses in low density single family residential areas – however, this is just another example of their lack of good leadership. Plan to attend this meeting and show your support for the residents of this community. Be an informed voter in 2014.

Council has decided to maintain the current level of policing services and have opted for the expensive $2.7 million OPP Contract for years 2013-1017. The details are outlined in the following BMRA Budget Review Committee article. However, the BMRA and the Community Policing Committee (CPC) agree that a business plan is required to evaluate our Policing needs and affordability over the next 4 years. This means an effective “integrated service delivery strategy” involving Town By-Law Enforcement and the Fire Department (through an STA Licensing Program), the Police and of course, through the “eyes and ears” of the residential community (Community Watch Programs). The need for a business plan will be presented to the Police Services Board on October 2, 2013.

If you have any comments regarding my statements in this a report and throughout the newsletter, please do not hesitate to contact me through the web site (info@bluemountainratepayers.ca) or send me a message via the Association’s mailing address.

As I have always said and will continue to say: “You are the heart and soul of the Association and we value your opinion”.

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