After this 12th unproductive budget deliberation in the Town of Orangeville, I believe it is perhaps time to revisit the need for a Code of Conduct. The first 3 hours of the meeting were dull, unproductive and, in my humble opinion , a complete waste of time and money. In the last hour, however, the behaviours exhibited by our elected officials crossed the line into complete and utter embarrassment. I cannot wrap my head around the fact that the City of Toronto passed a balanced multi-billion dollar budget so quickly and due to a complete lack of leadership competency from all parties involved, the Town of Orangeville appears to have reached a total deadlock.

I keep walking into council chambers thinking that it couldn’t possibly get any worse….and then it does. It the last hour of this meeting there were accusations, raised voices, and these shenanigans bordered on complete misconduct. These are the 7 people chosen by the people to spend OUR money…and not one of them can get their own egos in check for the betterment of OUR town. It’s shameful.

After reviewing the budgets of the Fire Department, Library and Police, council was unable to find any savings in these areas. When discussing the Library, Councillor Wilson mentioned that the Library has 6 Full-Time and 24 Part-Time staff….It is mind-boggling to me that the Libraries in the Town of Orangeville employ 30 people. Why has no one actually taken the time to look at compensation costs? Could libraries not be efficiently run with half of that number of staff? In my humble opinion, it definitely could be. How much would THAT cut save? And this is just the staffing situation in ONE department…

Reserves is a cringe-worthy word

“If you want to make a difference on this budget, I would ask you maybe to rethink the motion (about there reserve contribution) and bring it to the forefront so we can lower the budget and give the people what they want. So that’s the only way that the budget is going to come down.” said Councillor Garisto to Councillor Bradley after her motion was put forward to save $18,000 from the “event reserve” and put it back into the budget. Her motion was met with resistance and it was suggested by Councillor Kidd that this wasn’t worth saving. Councillor Wilson spoke up in support of the motion to say “To suggest that 18k isn’t worth saving is a bit contradictory to me.” This comment was met with Councillor Garisto regurgitating his point about reserves “Councillor Wilson maybe I should remind you the same. You moved the motion for the $1.2m, maybe you would consider retracting the motion.” This motion to save the $18k was defeated. They then went into discussion about attempting to save money on Canada Day celebrations by reducing the amount budgeted for the event. This was also met by resistance and no money was saved through this motion either.

There was a handful of savings ideas that were suggested and all motions were defeated…and met with the same speeches all about the reserves. “Those people who want a zero percent budget, this evening there have been several suggestions to decrease the rate and those people haven’t support it. And that’s their prerogative.” said Deputy Mayor Maycock. “Don’t give us a song and dance about these reserves.”

Why wait until Canada Day for fireworks?

I guess the conversation about Canada Day was an appropriate one – just after that discussion ended, the fireworks started in Council Chambers.

Councillor Bradley stated her disappointment that they were unable find more savings throughout the meeting “I would like to refer through you to the Mayor as to what his further plans are with his promise of the zero percent increase. Surely there would have been a plan other than taking it out of reserves. And so I would like to see if the Mayor has any reductions that he could suggest because I haven’t seen any come forward from him tonight or from the last many meetings.” The Mayor replied to this statement with “If you haven’t seen what my suggestion has been to be at zero than you haven’t been looking.” Councillor Bradley stated again that all of the Mayor’s suggestions have been taking from reserves to balance to zero which the Mayor took great exception to this “We don’t have accurate financial analysis of what those reserves should be. We’re almost at zero and then Boom we just tack it on. And forgive me for saying this but I almost feel like that was added on specifically so that you could say we’re not going to have zero and make me eat my words.” Let the grandstanding begin…again. Councillor Garisto felt it necessary at this point to remind everyone of his suggestion to use the Hydro Dividends to balance at zero. “If you come in with a promise to have a zero, you have to have a plan to do it without taking money out of the piggybank.” said Councillor Bradley.

Deputy Mayor Mayock suggested going back to a couple of items that were added on at previous meetings to revisit their need at this point. It was then suggested by the Mayor that perhaps there is intent or a plan to draw this out as long as possible. “If there is a decision that has been made by some to prolong this, what is the reasoning behind this?”

Councillor Kidd then broke out into a rant about the lack of Town Staff members being present at this meeting. “I was just going to mention how disappointed I am tonight with the number of staff that are missing. We are coming down to the wire on the budget. No one from the police department is here. I don’t see any technical support here. The treasurer is not here. And here we are in the 11th hour…” {**sidenote – I believe, Councillor Kidd that we are actually in the 60th hour…}

Councillor Bradley stopped Councillor Kidd at this point and requested that the Chair should be restricting these comments. “We are not in the position to be criticizing council or members of staff. It is completely inappropriate.” At this point, Deputy Mayor Maycock took a moment to remind Councillor Garisto what his role is as Chair of the Committee “When a member of council criticizes staff, it’s the chair’s responsibility to put the member in his place.”

“Staff that were not present tonight, had my authority not to be present.” said Acting CAO Mr. Brennan. “We are very far along into the year and people had plans and vacations booked that took them outside of the province and I didn’t feel it was warranted to cancel them.” How right you are Mr. Brennan…if this budget continues until December (which at this point looks like it could), staff should not be forced to cancel their vacations. Just because Council can’t get their $hit together, doesn’t mean that all Town Hall operations should come to a halt.

Nearing the end of the meeting, Councillor Wilson spoke up to say “The motion that I am going to make is to move the budget at 3.14%. I have heard that we are not trying to compromise. I have heard that we are not trying to make a special effort to cut this budget. It has been suggested that there are ulterior motives for the length of time that it has taken to discuss the budget. I dispute all of those things.” This motion could not carry due to the library board having to bring back some information regarding some cuts.

Now What?

So 12 meetings, 60 hours (approx) and a lot of headaches have passed. There have been political games, grandstanding speeches, circular discussions. And what has been accomplished? Not a whole lot.

So what happens now? Can anyone answer this question for me? If a jury is deadlocked, the judge calls a mistrial. Do the taxpayers of Orangeville get to say ‘enough is enough’ and call a mistrial here? If the advocates of zero percent can’t bring forward any tax savings ideas that don’t involve further depletion of reserves and advocates of the reserves can’t convince anyone to vote for their motions to save money, where do we go from here? I, for one have heard enough silly and repetitive speeches to last a lifetime and I have lost any ounce of confidence that I may have had in this councils decision making abilities…so now what?

At this point, another budget meeting has not been set.

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