Tag Archives: Budget

Regional Budget Increase 1.44%

I was hopeful we could decrease the budget slightly this year but it was not to be. Sean Strickland did bring forward reducing the supplementary taxes going to reserves by 2.5 million as a permanent move that I supported as it was greater than the 1.5 million I suggested in a note to councillors.  

I should also note that the budget was decreased by 3.7 percent approximately with money that was saved by the uploading of Ontario Works and Disability funds to the province.

Although there were many other small cuts, council eventually felt that a 1.20 percent increase in Regular transit with an emphasis on crowded routes (a topic I heard a lot about going door to door) and a small increase in money to fix homelessness and other programs (around .5 percent) were important.

As I said to council about the homelessness initiatives, we do know that these programs have reduced the number of “frequent flyers”, people who use emergency rooms, ambulance and police resources to an extraordinary amount because they have no other supports or help with physical and mental problems. In this way we save a little on expensive but necessary police and ambulance service.

Ten of the thirty police officers will be hired in December at a cost of 24,000 dollars. Of course this means at least 10 new officers in 2012, but I still hope we can add officers over say three years rather than the two requested.

I asked after the budget vote (I voted for the budget as I always do if I agree with it over all) for the Region to continue looking at our programs to see if some are redundant or can be made more efficient. We have done this in the past with Housing, Courts and inoculation services among others. It was too late at the 11th hour to start chopping programs and would be irresponsible in  my opinion without an in-depth review. Sacred cows would stay and overlooked programs without champions would go!

I want a Tax Decrease this Year.

This is the year we can decrease the Regional budget.This is the year we should do it. In 2008, the bottom fell out of the world of many Waterloo Region citizens. Since then they have been retraining or looking for work that isn’t there. 2011 is crunch time.Regional council is looking at its best tax position ever. Uploading of disability payments and Ontario Works to the province plus savings found with staff started us off at –.57%. This included funds for green bin and the museum. We can decrease the budget without taking out the increases in transit. Here are some thoughts and suggestions.

When I was a a public school trustee many years ago, the school board could raise or lower taxes (unlike today when the money is controlled by the province). As you will know from my brochures, one year we actually LOWERED taxes. It has always been my dream that at least one year during my stint on Regional Council that we would  not have a small increase or zero but would actuallty decrease taxes.This is the year we can do it.This is the year we should do it.
 
 In 2008, the bottom fell out of the world of many Waterloo Region citizens. Since then they have been retraining or looking for work that isn’t there. 2011 is crunch time. The resession is easing but jobs aren’t there yet, unemployment is running out, new jobs have less pay, retraining is done and so is the money that goes with it but now the retrained must find that new job. It’s tight out there.  Regional council is looking at its best tax position ever. Uploading of disability payments and Ontario Works to the province plus savings found with staff started us off at –.57%. We can decrease the budget without taking out the increases in transit.  To that decrease, it is proposed to have a .55 % increase for new initiatives and a 1.25% increase for new regular transit. The first blush of the police budget was 1.07 %

 I will not take away the increase to Regular transit. That is one thing I heard at the doors during the election. People want increases in regular transit. There are also some “new” initiatives like the homeless strategy and daycare subsidies that lost their funding from the senior levels of government that I wouldn’t touch. But there are some new initiatives that I won’t support to get that .55% down.

2.30 % is our starting point for our final budget day on March 23rd. We have never, ever in my memory ended final budget day with the number we started with. Always down a number of percentages.

So here are a number of ideas I have to reduce the budget. And remember, other councillors are also working on ideas, Jim Wideman in particular is very good at this.

Supplementary taxes. Yes using some of these is not the permanent decrease we would like but this year the percentage increase is so low, next year shouldn’t have too much of a bump up. I also want to point out that the region is still growing and some taxes from new building should come on line next year. Here is the policy on supplementary taxes:

The Region’s surplus policy requires the first $600,000 of surplus to be transferred to the subsequent year’s operating budget and the next $500,000 to the Roads Rehabilitation Reserve Fund. The remaining surplus is then transferred to the Tax Stabilization Reserve Fund (TSRF) and the Working Funds Reserve as necessary to the maximum level of $10 million for each.Any remaining surplus is then allocated to the Capital Levy Reserve Fund.

This is very prudent and I would not touch anything going into the reserves except for the Capital Levy Reserve Fund. It is estimated that 3million will be going into the Capital reserves to build up funds for future building projects (a savings account, if you will). These are our rainy day funds, but in case no one has noticed, it’s pouring out there! I want 1.5 million of the 3 million to go to reducing taxes. That is approximately .5%

I have already said when the police came to council that I want to see their request for new officers spread out over 4 years instead of 2 and for the police board to trim. Let’s say .95% for the police.

I also want us to decrease the roads budget by one million. Before you cry about potholes, half of that is from the supplementary taxes and we have increased our roads budget by huge amounts over the last 10 years. Lets put some of that money to transit if you want to look at it that way.

I am also going to ask staff to decrease our budget by any remaining amount that we are over -.1% budget decrease after my ideas and other councillors’ ideas have been taken into account. It won’t be much, each 1 percent decrease in the budget is approximately 3 million dollars and it will be less than 1 percent. We  have a one billion dollar budget, this is a drop in the bucket.

We can do this! We can help people out during this final hard year of the recession!

 

 
 
 
 

 

 

Budgeting the Budget.

The Record Editorial praised Mayor Craig for his comments on transit increases and agreed that the Region should go slow and not put all 4.1 million into transit this year. This Saturday morning, a large article talked about the plans for the Drayton Theatre in Cambridge. Cambridge council is putting 6 million into the theatre and the Record also thought this was a good idea.

It’s all about priorities. I will be supporting the increase in transit. This doesn’t mean that we can’t trim in other areas. I will be looking at the budget over the next few weeks.

I note that an extra one million always goes to increasing the roads budget. We have increased that budget by millions over the last 10 years, it could do with a cut of a million.

The new issues papers could increase the budget by .55%  Other than help for the homeless and the daycare subsidies, everything is up for grabs in my opinion.

We are also putting 3 million of supplementary taxes in the Capital levy reserve.
This is a good idea as this helps us save on the interest costs of debentures in the future. However this year we could put some of that money to a one time tax decrease.

Deep cuts would require program cuts. Keeping the staff at 0 percent increase would mean a lot of labour unrest and strikes. Do you want the buses to stop and the ambulances to not take certain calls and the police to work to rule and restaurants to not be inspected? Daycares closed.

Reducing wage increases is a slow process that involves bargaining in good faith with our employees.

Yesterday I had a long conversation with a constituent who is actually going through our budget presentations that are on the web. Good for her! I wish more people did that. She has just returned from 18 months working in Africa. She said we don’t know how fortunate we are to have a region that has public services that work.

Link to budget information

Regional Budget passes at 2.6 percent

Well the budget didn’t go to as low a percent as I would have wished, but the Regional budget came in at 1.78 % and the police budget at .88%.  (Approx 38 dollars per YEAR on the tax bill) Remember, the police board not Regional council sets the police budget, we just pay the bill.

Police halved their request and ended up with 10 new officers and 10 new civilians. 5 of those civilians will be prison guards for the courts and stations, and that will free up 5 officers to get back on the street. Not only will the new officers be working on crime prevention as they patrol but the Region is growing and no matter how low crime, we still have a lot and need more officers for growth.

I won some and lost some on the budget.

I wanted some of the 8 million in infrastructure funds that come from the federal government to be used to offset the increase for the system that calls out stops and has a gps for the buses and for solving the bus overcrowding problem on the mainline, number 9 Lakeshore and 12 and Iexpress. That didn’t fly and neither did my suggestion that the one million we took out of roads last year that was put back in (This is extra money that increases the roads budget each year, so it gets higher and higher) be taken out again this year.

On the plus side, I asked the head of finance about the gaping provision where if someone leaves the region and a person is hired for less money, that the budget be adjusted to the new rate instead of staying at the old one (hope that is clear). Jim Wideman  made sure that extra money was taken out for this gap when he and the other committee heads got together with staff to find some more cuts.

There were also rumblings that we should have no improvements but delegations and myself argued for the callouts of stops on the buses as required by the Human Rights tribunal and money to stop the overcrowding on buses. If we want to have a full LRT, we can’t have people stopping using the buses due to overcrowding. Also, all councillors agreed that daycare will be maintained at the present rate and we will see how the new all day jk and sk goes.