Circling Back

Municipality Matters

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In December 2017, the municipal budget was passed for 2018. During the budget process, there were two items in particular that caught the attention of this writer. Frankly, there were a lot more items that caught my attention, but there’s only so much space available for one article.

The first item is that there are new municipal jobs that were created in the 2018 budget. One new full-time engineering technician position was created for Public Works. One new Asset Management Coordinator position was created for the Finance Department in the second half of this past year, which was not part of the 2017 budget, but was funded by cost savings realized throughout the year. Therefore, though technically this position already existed, this is the first time that it will be accounted for as part of the municipal budget. There will be a new full-time Facilities Attendant position that has been “enhanced” from an existing part-time position to full-time. There will be a new full-time Bylaw Officer position that has been “enhanced” from an existing part-time position to full-time. Finally, there will be a new full-time Building Inspector position created, but it was stated that this position will be funded through the collection of inspection fees and will not be funded through the municipal budget.

To simplify things, let’s call each of the new Bylaw Officer and Facilities Attendant positions a half of a full-time job as they were both part-time previously. Add to this the new full-time Engineering Technician and that means that the equivalent of TWO full-time jobs were created in this budget. The total cost of all of these new positions as provided by the Treasurer is $125,000 including benefits. This represents approximately 1% of the municipal budget.

For this year’s budget process, Council decided that they would try a new process whereby community groups and residents who wanted to make budget requests or wanted to make some other sort of change to the budget would have to speak to a member of Council and then that member of Council would bring their request forward to be voted on. Members of Council claimed that they had collectively met with people or groups a total of approximately thirty times. Deputy Mayor Tobin believed that she received about thirty emails and Councillor Onasanya said that he received at least thirty emails regarding the budget. The other three members of Council were unable to come up with a figure as to how many emails they received. There was also mention of how consultation occurs with residents and community groups throughout the year, not only at budget time.

The total amount of money that was requested to be added or shifted for the 2018 budget by residents or community groups in North Grenville during the budget consultation process was $166,000. Some of the requests included one by the Ontario Parenting Connection (and an offer had been made by OPC to become a partner on the project) for $100,000 for a splash pad and other upgrades to Riverside Park, a request to increase the amount of money in the Community Improvement Program by $20,000 from the Old Town Kemptville Business Improvement Area (BIA) and another BIA request for $40,000 to complete the Waterfront Trail along the actual waterfront, instead of its current route which sends people for a sloped walk up Barnes Street and then to walk along Clothier Street. Each request was voted on separately by Council at a special Committee of the Whole meeting on November 14.

After all of this consultation, the amount of money that was either shifted or added to the budget from these consultations amounted to a grand total of $500. That works out to 0.3% of the amount that was requested. It’s difficult to believe that someone was genuinely interested in consulting with people with results like that.

At one of the initial budget meetings, a video was played on a unique concept of having residents make budget requests and then the community could vote on which request they like. A list of community requests would be compiled by municipal staff and then residents would be able to vote on them electronically to determine a winner. That winner would then be put into the budget. However, there’s a big stipulation in that Council would have to decide the amount of money that was available for these requests. This sounds like a very promising concept, assuming that there’s a reasonable amount of money available. Although it certainly wouldn’t be a tough task to beat $500.

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