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Welcome transparency with County budget

Viewpoint – By Doris Lane
Mayor Peter Mertens was elected to try and put the County’s finances in order.
The council is aiming for a zero increase in taxes.
Council has had staff working to do just that.
The following is a partial list of recommendations coming from staff.
* Trim spending on specialized transit
* Reduce maintenance in parks and facilities
* Close Wellington, Athol and South Marysburgh town halls as well as Benson Hall from July 1st to Dec 31
*  Trim cemeteries budget
*  Halve funding to ward Rec Committees
*  Scale back roads overhead
*  Eliminate Wellness Fair
*  Trim museum funding
*  Improve efficiency of McFarland home
*  Trim economic Development budget
*  Scale back roads overhead
*  Suspend tree replacement
*  Suspend road brushing, tree removal and roadside mowing contracts–do more in house
*  Suspend surface treatment contract
*  Improve fuel management
*  Close road service depots in Bloomfield, Hillier and Athol
*  Seasonal closing of dumps and transfer sites in Ameliasburgh, Hillier, Hallowell and
Sophiasburgh from Nov 1 to April 30
*  Suspend some transfers to reserves
*  Extend road line painting to three year rotation from two currently

This is the first time in 10 years that we have seen such transparency in the budget issue and we commend staff for the good work they have done in trying to contain the budget.

Filed Under: Letters and Opinion

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  1. Heather Bouthillier says:

    Perhaps the mayor and council should not have given the go ahead to spend the high price of hiring out the job of finding a replacement for Richard Shannon…trying to tell the taxpayers that they are trimming the fat from the county budget, yet they hire an outside party to do the job of the county H.R department.Also county council is telling the taxpayers that they are doing us a great justice by enforcing staff to submit a zero increase…however also telling staff to grossly increase user fees and service rates. How is this helping the tax payers save money…it does not make sense.Looks like the cuts shown are only to make council and the mayor look like they are achieving more then they actually are. Staff cuts are being thrown around, perhaps council should trim the size of management( the high paying) where the county seems top heavy. Staff cuts may be a needed form of savings…yet without the staff to run such facilities and services we may see a reduction in the level of service we all expect and deserve. Just my thoughts on the subject of cuts and councils attempt of achieving the platforms of their elections.

  2. Gary Mooney says:

    I hope that Council is not going to stop at 2.14 percent increase in the tax levy and that they are going to achieve zero percent. This is what Mayor Mertens promised as a mayoral candidate and this is what the electors expect.

  3. Doris Lane says:

    Chris what great comments you have made.
    A hiring freeze sounds like a really good idea and one that should be implemented immediately
    A few weeks ago I suggested that Veronica Lesky be given the job of interm CAO
    and this would do away with one job vacany. I am sure that Ms Lesky is capable of doing this job since the present CAO is only part time.

  4. Chris Keen says:

    Council, with assistance from County staff, has now managed to reduce the tax increase for 2011 to 2.14 per-cent from the original estimate of 9.7 per-cent. This is slightly below the current cost of living index but it is NOT zero.

    What has been done is indeed dealing with the “low-hanging fruit” as Mr. Moody points out. From what has been published to date only one part-time job has been eliminated in this latest iteration of the budget. My suspicion is that it was a non-union position.

    It’s now time for the administrators of each department to justify the level of employment in each of their areas of responsibility – starting with zero employees. Council, or the Finance Committee, needs to start this process immediately. Since our County staff is largely unionized, a hiring freeze needs to be implemented now while this exercise is undertaken.

    This is going to be a very difficult process but it MUST be done sooner rather than later. It is too late for this year’s budget which is being voted on in a few weeks – but it is not too late for next year.

    This is not a union-bashing exercise nor is it balancing the budget on the back of County staff. What it is, is a transparent process that will show all taxpayers that we are being provided with only the services we need at a reasonable price, using only the required number of employees to provide them.

    The “easy” cuts have already been found.

  5. Marc Keelan-Bishop says:

    I still think that cutting the Economic Development budget is short-sighted. I know a lot of young entrepreneurs who were attracted here by the Creative Economy work being done by that office, and that is just one of their many many projects.

  6. Gary Mooney says:

    I agree with Doris that staff should be commended for coming up with these suggestions. This is the sort of thing that would come out of a zero-based budget exercise, but without the overhead of such a project.

    But these suggestions are the “low-hanging fruit”. Next year it may be difficult to find enough to hold the line on the tax levy without digging deeper.

    Going forward, I think that we need several years of zero increase in the total residential tax levy to bring things back into balance. After that, the annual increase should not exceed the increase in the consumer price index.

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