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!