Clarington Council Approves 2014 Municipal Budget
March 11, 2014
On Thursday, March 6, 2014, Members of Council ratified the 2014 Municipal Budget. I am pleased to report that I worked with my Council colleagues to ensure that the following priorities were addressed.
The largest portion of your tax dollars will be going to support our roads. The Municipality was hit hard by the ice storm. By February 7, 2014, the Operations Department had we had already spent 59% of our 2014 Winter Control Budget. For comparison, during the same period in 2013, Operations had spent 31% of its budget. Taxpayers rely on our roads to get to and from home and work every day and to transport goods and services to and from Clarington. It is vital that we ensure our roads remain in good condition, and so I supported the allocation of $400,000.00 to maintaining and repairing roads.
Seniors are the fastest growing demographic in Clarington. To address increased demand for services, the Clarington Older Adults will be opening a satellite office at the Courtice Community Complex. This office which will take pressure off the COAA’s Bowmanville location and will ensure that seniors across the Municipality have access to valuable resources, programming and social opportunities.
Celebrating our History
The P.O.W. camp at the corner of Lambs Road and Concession 3 in Ward 3, known to many by its WWII designation as “Camp 30” is daily succumbing to vandalism. Without intervention, we risk losing a precious landmark. As the daughter of two historians, and grand-daughter of WWI and WWII veterans, from a young age I have had a deep appreciation for the importance of preserving our historical and cultural heritage.
With my colleagues on the Camp 30 Task Force, we selected the members of the “Juried Lands Foundation” whose sole mandate is to act as stewards for Camp 30. As your Councillor, I put forward a successful motion during the 2014 budget deliberations to allocate $45,000 the Foundation to use to protect and to promote Camp 30 as a historically and culturally significant site. This funding has zero impact on the tax levy as I found efficiencies in the budget to cover the cost.
Promoting Public Safety
Fire Chief Gordon Weir and our Master Fire Plan have recommended hiring additional full-time firefighters since 2009.
Clarington is the last lakeshore Durham Municipality that does not provide all residents with 24-hour, full-time fire protection. It’s important that we strive to provide the same service levels that other taxpayers in Durham enjoy.
Older adults living in the Wilmot Creek community rely on the Newcastle fire station for protection. I brought forward the motion to hire four full-time firefighters to staff the new Newcastle Fire Station full-time, with the salaries pro-rated for June, 2014. My proposal ensures that taxpayers get the best value for their money: the new firefighters will not begin working until June, 2014 and so the full cost of the positions should not be borne by the taxpayers.
My motion was unsuccessful, but members of Council approved another motion to allocate funding for four firefighters pending the recommendations of an updated Master Fire Plan to be presented on March 17, 2014. I am confident that members of Council will do the right thing and will promote the safety of residents by approving the hiring of the four full time firefighters.
Some other key motions I put forward to save taxpayer dollars were:
- Refusing four new requested Staff positions for a 2014 budgetary impact of $62,500.00 (with the total economic impact of full-year salaries being $215,000.00); and
- Proposing savings of $90,219.05 by denying or reducing budgetary increases described in “Schedule A” of the budget.
Prudent Reserve Fund Management
As your Councillor, I also put forward numerous motions to reduce contribution increases to already healthy reserve funds for a total savings of $95,500.00. Unfortunately, only one motion for a savings of $12,500.00 was successful. Every motion I put forward was done by way of recorded vote, with nearly all the motions supported only by a fellow Local Councillor, the Ward 1 representative Joe Neal.
My position on using the tax levy to fund increases to reserve funds is consistent: where the Municipal reserve is currently sitting in a good position and no draws are proposed, it does not make sense to ask ratepayers to shoulder a bigger financial burden simply to beef up already healthy reserves.
It also does not make sense to approve excessive contributions to “fat” reserves when our Municipality has one of the most healthy debt-to-reserve ratios in Durham Region and when we remain in an economic climate where taxpayers are finding it more difficult to find steady employment, support their families and keep a roof over their heads. The Municipality has to live within its means just as any taxpayer in Clarington does.
One such example is the additional $100,000 levied for a “Computer Equipment” reserve currently which currently sits at almost half a million dollars. I recommended that a more affordable contribution of $50,000.00 be made but I was unsuccessful in convincing my colleagues to exercise the same fiscal prudence.
I was, however, successful in reducing the contribution increase to our insurance reserve by 25% for a savings of $50,000.00 and I supported the elimination of a proposed Councillor travel budget increase. Further, as your Councillor, I continue to donate my own salary increase back to the Municipality.
- The net approved levy for the 2014 budget is 3.74%. Had all my motions for cost savings been approved for a total savings of $259,859.05, the proposed levy would have only been 3.13%. When, however, the Regional and School Board budgets are included, Clarington’s portion of the tax bill is actually 1.8%, an affordable increase which will ensure that we are able to maintain, and, in some areas, enhance, service levels for Ward 3 residents.
- During this year’s budget deliberations, I was criticized by a Council colleague for exercising what he perceived as my “nickel and dime” approach. To this accusation, my response was, and remains: “absolutely!” Every year, I spend many hours reviewing the budget documents. My number one priority is to find efficiencies to save taxpayers money, without undermining service levels. Nickels and dimes add up. This year, those nickels and dimes added up to over a quarter of a million dollars, which would have reduced the tax levy by 0.61% .
- As your elected representative, I have only supported two of the four budgets ratified since 2010, which translates to a 1.9% increase per year. This figure is only slightly over the rate of inflation and is consistent with my platform of fiscal responsibility and accountability.
My ability to work with other members of Council to ensure that the 2014 budget reflects the needs of Ward 3 residents has proven extremely helpful during this year’s budget deliberations and I am looking forward to seeing many of the improvements contained in our budget materialize over the coming months.
As always, I welcome feedback so please do not hesitate to get in touch with me by telephone at 905-623-3379, by email at email@example.com, or by Facebook message on my Facebook page “Corinna Traill” to make comments, ask questions or request additional information.
It was also very interesting to drive around with my folks and see where my dad grew up, and some of the buildings that my grandfather worked on as an architect in the early 20th century, including the Peace Tower and the Ottawa Museum of Nature (originally the Victoria Memorial Museum Building). I just wish I could have had a chance to sit down with grand-dad to talk to him about the role he played in shaping the landscape of our nation’s capitol in person. : )
We rounded off the weekend with a trip to Carp to visit the Canadian Cold War Museum/Diefenbaker Museum, where we toured the “Diefenbunker”, a four-storey, 300 room, 100,000 square foot underground bunker, built between 1959 and 1961 to house 535 Canadian government officials and military officers in the event of a nuclear war. It was an eerie place to visit, and the visit really brought our attention to an important, and often overlooked, stage in our Canadian history.
Clarington 2014 Budget Deliberations to Take Place Friday, February 21, 2014
I have spent a significant amount of time reviewing our budget documents to look for efficiencies to ensure that taxpayers get the best deal possible.
I plan on moving amendments to the budget which, if successful, will result in saving taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Free Movie Night Tonight, February 18, 2014 at the Municipal Administrative Centre, 7:00 p.m.
I am pleased to announce that it is now Heritage Week in Clarington. If you are looking for something fun to do, why not stop by Town Hall tonight for a FREE movie at 7:00 p.m.?
The Clarington Heritage Committee will be presenting a screening of “Childhood Lost”, a documentary examining the fate of 100,000 British children shipped to Canada between 1869 and 1939, to work as farm labourers.
Following the screening, Sandra Joyce, Executive Director or the British Home Children Advocacy and Research Association, will make a short presentation and be available to answer questions. Event is free. Old fashioned kettle corn, (donations accepted for kettle corn with proceeds going to local heritage initiatives) and free door prizes.
For more information, please telephone: 905-623-2734 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be sure to visit the Tyrone Community Centre this Valentine’s Day! It’s going to be a great event.
Flu Shots Available at Metro Pharmacy, Bowmanville Mall
It’s “better late than never”!
For all residents in Ward 3 who still have not yet gotten your flu shot, please note while Shopper’s Drug Mart in the Bowmanville Mall has run out of vaccines, the Metro Pharmacy at the Bowmanville Mall (Highway 2 and Simpson) has some available. Simply show the pharmacist your health card and get vaccinated. Influenza, commonly known as “the flu,” is a serious, acute respiratory illness that can lead to pneumonia.
Immunization helps strengthen your body’s natural immune response against the flu. The flu shot stimulates your immune system to build antibodies against the virus, making it stronger and ready to fight off the flu.
It only takes 10 minutes to protect yourself, your family and your community!
Happy Robert Burns Day!
I had a great afternoon today at the Clarington Older Adults Association with my parents where we celebrated Robbie Burns Day in true Scots style. We started with a recitation of the Address to the Haggis, held the toasts to the lads and lassies and enjoyed a wonderful meal (including aforementioned haggis).
Thanks very much to the COAA and all their hard working volunteers for putting on this excellent annual event commemorating Scotland’s national poet and humanist.
Yard Waste Pickup Update - January 20, 2014
We are still waiting for a response if Durham Region will be scheduling future yard waste pickups in the months of February and March as requested by Clarington.