Before I get into the meat of the meeting, I must share with you a message I received from a loyal reader on Tuesday morning. She said it best when she said that she doesn’t know how anyone sits through these meetings over and over because it’s like the movie Groundhog Day. I had to laugh out loud at that because its sad, but true…and I have sat through every minute of the 2015 Groundhog Day budget “deliberations”, for lack of a better word.

If I were forced to choose one word to describe this particular meeting, I would struggle to use only one. Unproductive, frustrating, repetitive, painful, and embarrassing are the first 5 that come to mind. I am going to write this as a two-parter, because I have no way of wrapping a 5 1/2 hour meeting up in one post. So I will start with the budget portion for part 1 and the council agenda for part 2.

Citizen Outrage

When I arrived for the meeting shortly after 5pm, a small protest had started outside of Town Hall with some local residents showing their unhappiness at the prospect of a 4% increase with signs stating “No More Tax Increases”!

The meeting began at 5:30 with questions from the gallery. A number of citizens rose to the podium to voice their discontent with the budget proceedings up to this point. “Mr.Wilson, you said (last meeting) that it’s only $100 a year?? Well, I will email you my address and roll number and you can pay it for me since it’s only a couple bucks a week…cause I can’t afford it!” A very passionate Jo Ann Bourque said. “Perhaps 0% is unattainable but 4% is ludicrous. Anything over 1% is unsubstantiated.”

Next, Trevor Castiglione stepped up to address council. I should note here that after the last meeting of the finance committee on March 9th, a petition began to circulate over social media in protest of the potential 4% tax increase. In less than 2 weeks, almost 1000 people had signed. Mr. Castiglione presented council with the petition he had initiated with the message “You might want to start listening.”

9 year old Christina Cauley was next up and said “If you keep on raising the taxes, my family will have to move away from my friends.” Edna Croft gave an emotional plea to council “Our house is going up for sale on Wednesday. My husband is retiring and I’m working at Walmart just to pay your taxes. Maybe you guys can afford it, we can’t. Enough is enough.”


The meeting itself began with quite the show of grandstanding by a few of the councillors. Councillor Garisto started this grandstanding with a speech…I won’t bother quoting the speech, because you can read any of my last posts to get the gist. Next up was a new offender to grandstanding speeches, Councillor Kidd. He stated “Let me just say, I did not support 4%, you Mr. Chair did not support 4%. Let me just say that the Mayor did not support 4%. Now the people on the other side of the room are now saying they aren’t going to support 4%?? My question is why did they support it in the first place?”

**Note of clarification. I bring this point up because I think there have been some great misconceptions stated both in Council Chambers as well as throughout social media. Over social media, a photo has been circulating with a photo of Deputy Mayor Maycock, and Councillors Wilson, Bradley and Campbell and this photo is basically accusing them of being the reason for a 4% tax increase….and Councillor Kidd has stated the same in his statement above. What the public needs to understand is this: No one has actually voted in favour of a 4% tax increase….yet. The 4 council members in questions have voted for 4% being added to reserves, but all of them have been on record stating that the budget isn’t finished and that none will support a 4% increase in taxes. **

The dreaded word….reserves

I think perhaps the most frustrating part of these meetings, is that they are all talking in circles, but no one is listening to one another. The side of the room that is advocating strongly for a 0% tax increase, can’t seem to move past the reserve money to actually find overspending in the Town departments. In fact, Councillor Garisto brought up the Hydro Dividends again as a suggestion to take that $500k and add it to the budget. So again, the “solution” to him seems to be spend the reserve money to balance at 0%…and to that I have to ask the question – what exactly are your intentions? And why can’t you put as much effort into reading the budget, analyzing the spending and actually fixing the problem as you do making glorious speeches to fulfill your election campaign agenda? Using the reserves to balance a budget is NOT fiscally responsible. I don’t know how many times I have to say that…can I word it any more clearly?

Councillors Campbell, Bradley and Wilson all stated their interest in finishing the budget to find some savings – none were willing to discuss the reserve portion at this time. Councillor Bradley stated “We’ve been skipping around and spending tremendous amounts of time on some very small items and now that we are into the multi-million dollar budgets, we’re skipping over them. I’m not ready to look at reserves. I just want to go through the various departments and start looking for savings.”

Councillor Wilson put forward a motion to send the report that the Town of Orangeville has received regarding a costing of 911 services from the OPP to the Police Services Board for review and comment in order to start the conversation there and perhaps find some long term savings. This turned into a 10 minute confused conversation that included Councillor Kidd asking “If OPP were the police, is there anything in their contract that there would be a buyout package.” To be clear, they were talking only about 911 not services, not OPP vs OPS…{comments like this one are a huge factor in why these meetings carry on at such length}. Mayor Williams was not comfortable supporting this motion as he felt that this should not have been discussed in public and rather should have been in a closed session to which Councillor Wilson took great exception stating that there is no reason to have this as a closed discussion and “If we don’t look at all the services and how we provide them, how can we ever save money? If we ignore this now, we’re not doing the right thing.” The motion carried.

For the next Groundhog Day moment, Mayor Williams again suggested to send the operating budget to council for approval and to look at reserves as a separate issue. Rather than saving money from the current budget, the Mayor suggested looking at assets to sell throughout the year to add to reserves throughout the year. Councillor Wilson liked the idea of looking at assets over the year and suggested looking into selling the Humber College lands (which there is currently a $4 million investment in and in 2014 $103k was paid in interest charges). Mayor Williams motion failed again.

At 7pm, they took a recess to go into the regular Council Meeting. So, incase you are keeping track of exactly how much saving was incurred in the first 1 1/2 hours of the meeting, the final tally of savings is $0.

So we will now fast-forward to 9pm when Council adjourned and we get back to Budget meeting.

Line by Line, Department by Department…

They started a breakdown by department to find savings. Councillor Wilson put forward a motion to remove $30,000 for the ‘Facade Grant’ – for context, the Facade grant is a program that the Town of Orangeville has had in place since 1999 to give business owners the opportunity to apply for this grant to make improvements to the facade of their building. Councillor Wilson stated that this is a valuable program, but one that in the essence of saving some money could be removed for the 2015 budget. There was a significant amount of pushback…and not from the people I was expecting pushback from. When it went to the vote, Deputy Mayor Maycock and Councillors Wilson, Campbell and Kidd supported this motion while Mayor Williams and Councillors Garisto and Bradley DID NOT support this motion for savings. Interesting to me that the 2 who are screaming the loudest for a 0% tax increase were 2 of those who voted against this savings.

Councillor Bradley brought up the need to revisit the Tony Rose situation…kudos to her for being the only one willing to start that conversation. “”The public is saying cut things but instead we are doing exactly the opposite by providing an enhanced service. It doesn’t jive.” said Councillor Bradley about Tony Rose pool. However, it fell over deaf ears because yet again, no one was interested in having that discussion…and no one who voted in favour of keeping Tony Rose open was willing to revisit that motion. Mayor Williams is hopeful that Tony Rose’s financial position can change by increasing revenues or by closing parts of it, it could in the future save some money. However, the Mayor finds it unproductive to have these conversations now and would rather pass the budget at hand and spend the next year finding savings for next budget. I don’t disagree with the Mayor on this – I think it is necessary to really look at the spending issues that exist in the Town of Orangeville. However, after campaigning on a platform of zero budget, I was hoping that at some point in the first 100 days of office some sort of plan for savings would have been brought forth by one of the advocates of zero % that didn’t involve using reserves to balance the budget, or creating invisible lines on the budget for savings. I can tell you that in the 40+ hours of budget deliberations that have gone on, there has been ample time for savings to have been introduced. By no surprise, Councillor Bradley’s motion to re-look at Tony Rose failed.

The meeting got out of hand at this point and in my humble opinion that was at the hands of the Chair of the Finance Committee, Councillor Garisto. He allowed Councillor Kidd to go on an unbelievably inappropriate rant. He ranted about the “unfairness” of the committee to suggest that the Parks & Rec committee start to investigate stats surrounding Tony Rose. He pointed out that Councillor Bradley had been on council for her 9th year, that Councillor Wilson had been on council for 16 years (which by the way he has not) that Councillor Campbell had been on council for 24 years and that Deputy Mayor Maycock had been on council for “who knows how long” and where were they on this issue in all of their years and why did HE have to review this. I got the impression that he is not happy about having to do some actual work…Well, I’ve got news for you, Councillor Kidd, you CHOSE to run for council and being on council IS WORK…and if you aren’t prepared to do work, then maybe this is not the right job for you. As it stands, you have already publicly declined taking on any additional responsibilities…is it too much to ask that you do the job that you were elected to do?!?! The show that he put on in council chambers falls under the category of downright embarrassing and as the chair of the committee, it would have been nice to see Councillor Garisto take on a leadership role and put an end to it before it got to the level of gong-show.

Deputy Mayor Maycock put forth a motion to decrease the budget by the $176,000 that the Town of Orangeville will see from an assessment change on some conservation land with the Orangeville Railway Development Corporation. This was met with backlash from Mayor Williams who didn’t feel it prudent to bank on that money when the cheque hasn’t arrived. This prompted the Deputy Mayor to read the legal document from the lawyers showing that the money was in fact coming. This motion did eventually pass, but was voted against by Mayor Williams. This is pretty comical to me considering that he was the one who put forward the motion to add a line into the budget called “In-Year Savings” of around $180k to call the budget zero just a few short weeks ago. In my humble opinion, at least we have legal notification that this $176,000 is actually coming to the Town of Orangeville whereas with the In-Year Savings line, it was with fingers crossed that hopefully we could maybe, possibly, hopefully save $180k. Is anyone else confused?!

Again, for those keeping track, after Monday’s meeting, $206,000 was saved on the budget which reduced the tax increase from 4.2% to 3.3% which represents an increase of about $84 on an average assessment.

The next budget meeting will take place in Council Chambers beginning at 7pm on Tuesday, March 31st. Anyone willing to hazard a guess what date the 2015 budget will finally pass? Will it be on the 12th meeting? My guess is no. It has been made clear over the last 11 meetings that there is no sense of teamwork or compromise. Has the finance committee reached a standstill? Are they deadlocked? I don’t know about you, but the more ‘Groundhog Day’-meetings I attend, the more and more concerned I am about the fate of our Town…this is only the first 100 days. What will the next 3 1/2 years hold?

As always, I welcome your opinions and comments! Look for part 2, coming soon!

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