The first two hours of the budget meeting was pretty par for the course…they were discussing the Public Works budget. Same ol’ Same ol’…lots of discussion, very few cuts to the budget. Then in the last hour or so, a very interesting thing happened…

A Zero % Increase???

Before I start this explanation, I need to remind all of you exactly how many budget meetings there have been so far…This was the 6th…

So, let’s set the scene here. At the initial budget presentation, the total budget, after the department heads had put it together, showed a 3.3% increase. 20 some odd hours of discussion later throughout 5 1/2 meetings and very little, and I mean VERY LITTLE had actually been removed from the budget. Two hours into the 6th budget meeting, Mayor Williams puts forward a motion stating that he would like every department to go back and get their budget down to a zero percent increase. Not at the first meeting? Not even after the 2nd (unproductive) meeting?? Or the 3rd??? I was shocked by this motion. My understanding, and please correct me if I am wrong, is that the Town Staff puts together their budgets as they would like it. They present it to council and it becomes COUNCIL’s responsibility to make the tough cuts to get it to their desired amount – be it zero, 1%, 3% or 6%. Well, it has been made clear after all of this discussion that no one on council actually has the desire to make the tough decisions. So to have the audacity to put it back on the Town Staff?? You have got to be kidding me!!!

Mayor Willaims said “We’re very very close to holding it…only a few percentage points.” Councillor Wilson asked exactly how much money they would have to cut out of the budget to get it to a zero percent increase to which the Treasurer, Brian Parrott replied that it would be around $900,000.

{Insert my thoughts…$900,000 is a helluva pile of money…And to put that back on to Town Staff rather than taking that responsibility yourselves is nothing other than irresponsible and unfair}

The conversation then gets interesting with Councillor Campbell stating “I think everyone has prepared their budgets in really good faith and I would like to hear the rationale for the budgets we have now.” Her reply was followed quickly by Councillor Wilson saying “To try to take another million out of this budget when we are already beggaring our reserves again to me is not responsible budgeting. So I am not going to support that.” He goes on later to say “We have spent many hours through several meetings reviewing the budget, and as you said we have taken out virtually nothing. To me that just proves that saying to the staff take out another million dollars is a virtual impossibility”

Much discussion followed this. Throughout the course of the discussion, I couldn’t help but listen and wonder….is this a great political ploy? After campaigning so heavily on a “Zero Percent” tax increase, to put the onus onto anyone other than yourself seems a little shady at best. But brilliant in the political world…make heavy campaign promises, realize that your promises can’t happen because even you yourself doesn’t want to make the necessary cuts, get someone else to do it, and when it doesn’t work, you can still say “Well, I tried…”

Back to the discussion at hand. Councillor Wilson said “It will be a waste of staff’s time to tell them to cut back a thousand here and a thousand there 900 times to hit a magical number of 0% increase. To me this will be an exercise in futility for the staff and I think their time could be better spent running their depts. Rather than trying to come up with a figure that is not realistic.”

Motion Carries.

In My Humble Opinions…

Well, I have shared some of my humble opinions, but never fret, I have more opinions! I’ve already stated that I think this is a totally unfair exercise for the Town of Orangeville staff to have to partake in…and yet another waste of time and resources. The Town staff have already had to endure a ridiculous number of hours sitting in meetings rather than doing their jobs, and now council wants them to waste more time re-doing a budget that they, as the Town Council, should be cutting? Labour is the highest cost that The Town of Orangeville (and every other business in the world) has and to waste valuable labour hours on these ridiculous activities? A waste of resources.

Promising a zero percent tax increase at election time is risky business. Sure it sounds appealing. Who wouldn’t love to spend less money on their taxes? But then reality has to set in. A zero percent increase is next to impossible. Sure you make it happen for one year…but then what? What would the tax increase be in 2 years time? 3 years time? 4 years time? And when you realize that those promises you made can’t happen, is this way to make it happen?

I have watched every single painful minute of every single council meeting. There really has been very little effort to reduce spending. In fact, quite the opposite. Need I remind everyone of the vow that council took to keep Tony Rose Arena open for another 4 years (at a loss of $200,000 per year)? Or the $25k that was approved spending for the PanAm Games Torch Relay? Or most recently, the light armoured vehicle that council has approved putting an application in for? (When I asked how much it would cost the town to get this donated vehicle to Orangeville, I was told somewhere between 5k & 20k). I’m not a mathematician by any sense of the word, but that sounds like almost a million dollars that could have been potentially saved this term.

And yet, not one person has taken a moment to think outside the box to find SMARTER spending solutions…

I would love to hear your thoughts on this…please leave me a comment!

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