Please find below, President Brian McElwain's speech to the Township of Muskoka Lakes emphasizing the need for fiscal responsibility and 'Living within their Means'
Date: March 31, 2010
To: The Corporation of the Township of Muskoka Lakes
From: Brian McElwain, President of the Muskoka Lakes Association (MLA)
Subject: Introduction of the 2010 Draft Budget by the Treasurer
Good morning and thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to offer my comments, observations, suggestions and recommendations regarding the Township of Muskoka Lakes 2010 Tax Supported Operating Budget.
The proposed effective tax increase of 6.37% (but really a 8.49% increase) is well above inflation and not in line with what is happening with incomes and the economy in Muskoka. As you know and have read, unemployment in Ontario is high at 8.5% and the private sectors are not seeing major increases in salaries. Pensioners see only an increase of 0.4% due to inflation. Personal debt has increased and the value of RRSP investments have decreased and spending has decreased.
In the March 23/10 edition of the Toronto Star (page A-8), the Provincial Liberals say No Tax Hikes in Budget”. The first paragraph of this article says “There will be no tax increases or new taxes in Thursday’s provincial budget despite a record $24.7 billion dollar deficit this year”.
In the March 27/10 edition of the Toronto Star (page A-12), the headline reads “McGuinty urges cities to copy his wage freeze”. The first paragraph of this article says “Premier Dalton McGuinty is urging all Ontario municipalities to follow the lead of Queen’s Park and freeze civic wages for two years to preserve public services”, The third paragraph of this article says “ I would invite the municipalities to take a long hard look at what we are doing here. We had a choice. We could have imposed this approach on our municipal partners. We decided they’re a mature responsible level of government, they have their own duly elected representatives.”
As I reviewed Expenditure Summary of the 2010 Operating Budget in the subject report, I observed the following:
a) For the CAO and Clerk Division sub-category, there is a 16.1% increase for the 2010 Budget versus the 2009 Budget (ie; a $204,879 increase)
b) For the Treasury Division sub-category, there is a 12.7% increase for the 2010 Budget versus the 2009 Actual (ie; a $74,287 increase)
c) For the Economic Development sub-category, there is a 29.4% increase for the 2010 Budget versus the 2009 Actual (ie; a $9,653 increase)
d) For the Parks sub-category, there is a 16.3% increase for the 2010 Budget versus the 2009 Actual (ie: a $91,648 increase)
e) For the Planning Services sub-category, there is a 16.1% increase for the 2010 Budget versus the 2009 Actual (ie; a $113,809 increase)
In fact, 6 out 8 main categories have higher Budgets in 2010 versus 2009 Budgets
As well, I observed that the expenditures for Arenas is budgeted for 2010 at $488,926 but the revenue expected and planned for is only $137,849. Similarly, the expenditures for Community Centres is budgeted for 2010 at $401,439 but the revenue expected and planned for is only $36,041.
Because of the above, the required tax levy has gone from a 2009 Actual of $6,741,288 to a 2010 Budget of $7,441,516 which is a 10.4% increase.
These observations show major percentage increases in expenditures which do not present a realistic or perceived attempt by the Township to “live within their means”. Their constituents and taxpayers are trying to follow this motto in these tough economic times.
So, as a representative of the MLA and our 3,000 MLA members and their families, I recommend that the Township should consider the following suggestions;
1) Take a line-by-line look at each expenditure to see which items can be substantially reduced, eliminated or at least equal to the 2009 Actual.
2) Roll back the 2% increase in compensation to non-union municipal staff and hold their compensation to the 2009 rate. Similarly, the politicians should lead by example and not increase their reimbursement expectations.
3) Meet with other municipalities and the province to discuss holding the line in their negotiations with OPSEU, the Police, Emergency Services, and the Firefighters Associations.
4) Preserve the environment by allowing rainwater to infiltrate the soil rather than spending dollars in asphalt paving.
5) Consider various ways to increase revenues from the use of our Arenas and Community Centres.
6) Replace capital items when they no longer perform their required service versus their forecasted end-of-life time.
In summary, the goal for the Township should be to set a 2010 budget not in accordance with historical trends and known and projected activities but rather the goal for 2010 should be not to increase the tax rate as urged by the Province of Ontario. This would signal to your taxpayers and constituents that you do indeed recognize and appreciate their own personal financial situations in these difficult times. Over the next couple of years, let’s work together and follow the motto “live within our means”.
President, Muskoka Lakes Association (MLA)