Mayor and Council
February 05, 2023
Tomorrow you will
have your first opportunity to change the direction that Owen Sound is headed as
a result of years of excessive tax increases. The BMA slides show the impact of
the failure of successive councils to address our growing expenses. This
situation has developed over the past 20 years and you will not be able to fix
it in a single budget year. However you can put on the brakes and begin the
process of closing the gap with our surrounding municipalities. Our closest
neighbour, Georgian Bluffs taxes a detached bungalow at $1,806 which is
only 42% of the taxes on the same property in Owen Sound of $4,210. It's time
to begin to close this gap.
important to acknowledge that this year staff have clearly made a noteworthy
effort to hold the line on expenses and have implemented reductions. These
efforts should be recognized and staff should be commended on their efforts.
However, as important as these reductions are they do not begin to undo the
damage that was inflicted by past budgets.
My thoughts on
how you can start the process of change:
a target of a 2% tax reduction and begin to address the process of staff
reductions which will be necessary in the future.
are some budget increases that you have little or no control of such as fuel
costs and insurance increases. However as a general rule all increases that are
within your control should not be approved.
3. Salaries and benefits
- all increases in salaries and
benefits must be offset by reductions in FTEs. The Owen Sound city workforce
has grown well beyond what is necessary to operate a municipality of our size.
You will have to address staffing at some time so you can start by offsetting
the current increases with reductions in FTEs. This rule of thumb should be
equally applied to civilian staffing in police services.
section of the presentation on Service Level increases must be denied across the board. We simply
cannot afford these increases. Although initiatives like Public Art, EAB
remediation and grants to third parties are normally worthy of serious
consideration, we simply cannot afford these increases at this time.
- We are now looking at a transit budget of $1,303,000 which is a 33% increase
from the pre Covid budget of $982,500. Staff have estimated that 2023 revenue
from ridership will be only $264,000 which is only 81% of the pre Covid revenue
of $325,000. The bottom line is that costs are up by 33% and ridership is down
by 20%. This is clearly not sustainable. You will need to address Transit
sometime this year. You will either have to significantly reduce its burden on
the taxpayer or cancel the service. You can start this process by rejecting all
non-contract increases and recover the $125,000 in Safe Restart funds.
There is no
question that you are facing an enormous challenge to begin the process of
turning things around. Staff have begun the process and demonstrated that they
recognize the need for change. It's now up to you to take the steps that are
beyond their control such as capping the "Salaries and Benefits" line item and
only approving those increases that are beyond your control. To refresh your
memory of the gravity of the situation we are facing I've attached some of the budget
analysis work I've done in the past.