Mayor's 2015 6 Month Review
- 23 June 2015
- Hailey Thomson
- Hits: 2002
Coming out of the October 2014 Municipal election campaign, there were many expectations of your new Council. I’d like to take this opportunity to let you know how we have responded to those expectations.
One priority was to communicate more effectively and more frequently, and to make it easier for you to find out about things going on in our community. A second priority was to take a good hard look at how we are delivering the services and the staff required to do so, and thirdly we looked to reduce expenses to achieve financial sustainability.
The first six months of the 2014-2018 term has been productive. I am so very proud of the Council and staff team effort that has been put forward to begin addressing those expectations.
I have summarized some of the highlights and achievements of the first 6 months:
- The term began on December 8 with a visioning and a Council and staff team building exercise designed to identify Council’s fifteen year goal and the priorities we need to set for this term to achieve that target. We are two-thirds of the way through this process. Residents will have an opportunity for input on July 13 with the final document coming before Council on July 27 for approval. Spoiler alert! Remediating our infrastructure is certainly a priority.
- The strategic plan that will support these priorities will outline:
- Council’s leadership in clearly setting the course for staff to address the community’s priorities;
- A direction to staff to implement them beginning with a thorough review of service delivery in order to align staff appropriately; and
- Council’s expectation of continuous improvement in all departments.
- We committed to keeping tax increases under the rate of Ontario inflation. The initial operational increase of 2.8% for the 2015 budget was reduced to an increase in property taxation of 1.32% and that included 1% of the revenue increase dedicated to infrastructure needs. This was a significant achievement by staff considering that in addition to cutting expenses, they absorbed $320,000 in uncontrollable increased costs for utilities, insurance etc., and the loss of $96,000 in provincial funding. With the blended increase coming in at .08%, property owners in our municipality will see a minimal increase; for example a property valued at the average of $232,000 will see an increase in the tax bill this year of less than $12.00.
- The Municipality is committed to finding ways to reduce the property tax burden. Part of this strategy is to increase revenues. Since 2009, the price of the garbage bag tag had not increased from $2.00. As part of the 2015 tax supported operating budget, council approved an increase in the cost of garbage bag tags from $2.00 to $2.50 to continue to ensure the cost recovery of waste management is offset through user fees rather than to raise taxes.
- Council has implemented a freeze on the replacement of vacancies within fulltime positions, and all vacancies must be reviewed and approved by Council prior to being refilled. Council has placed a high priority on continuous improvement, and to review the due diligence and risk analysis process by enhancing the template for staff reports. This will provide more in-depth background information to the decision-making process.
- The 2014 audited financial statements showed another year of strong financial stewardship which has eliminated the peaks and valleys we’ve experienced in the past. Long term debt continues to be reduced, our reserves are increasing providing leverage for potential grants for infrastructure, and our financial and investment processes are well managed.
- Seeking public input into the business of the municipality was an important expectation, and interested citizens have been appointed to several advisory committees including: Accessibility, Economic Development, Heritage, the Meaford Museum, and to Boards of Directors including the Meaford Library, Riverside and Bognor community halls. Members of the public are also very active in the “Friends of” at Woodford Community Hall.
- Our Municipality ranked third in the province in 2014 for waste diversion. Council endorsed the Grey Bruce Food Charter which is a commitment to work together to build a vibrant, sustainable, food secure community.
- An initiative was undertaken with our neighbouring fire service responders to further ensure the safety of our rural residents by the adoption of the “closest hall response” principle for fire services.
- Council approved the continuation of policing services by the O.P.P. and Superintendent Mike Guilfoyle reported that the cost of policing for the first quarter of 2015 was reduced from the budget expectation. He also confirmed the appointment of a new uniformed School Liaison Officer.
- Council reinstated “Municipality of…” into our corporate logo and signage will be coming to identify our historic hamlets villages and parks as key contributors to the Municipality of Meaford.
- Our new streamlined website was launched the end of April to provide better navigability, to comply with accessibility requirements, and to integrate a Facebook feed. As a communication tool, there will be constant information updates through the mayor’s corner as well as a question and answer section. The mayor is available for one-on-one chats Wednesday through Friday mornings 9:30 – 11:00 at the Trowbridge administration office and every third Thursday of the month from 1:30 – 3:00 at the Sydenham Depot.
- Nine citizens representing a cross section of our municipality have begun to design a Coat of Arms that will be reflective of the whole municipality. The heraldry department within the office of the Governor General of Canada will come up with the visual representation of this work which will be incorporated into a new Chain of Office as well as other official insignia for our municipality.
- Reconstruction projects approved for the 2015 budget include:
- Grandview Drive and Susan Street (subject to grant funding approval)
- The 007 Bridge connecting Sideroad 30 between the 2nd and 6th Concessions near Silcote.
- A proposed new commercial condominium complex which will see 80 – 90 residential units in the downtown business block has been presented for public comments.
Mayor Barb Clumpus