Ask-A-Candidate Question 14

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QUESTION ADDRESSED TO MORINVILLE COUNCIL AND MAYORAL CANDIDATES

In these uncertain times many families are cutting costs and limiting their expenses. It takes two working parents to support a growing family. We see more job loss in these times and more jobs becoming part time casual employees. While the employer benefits, the working individuals do not. It is a sad simple fact of today’s reality. We only have so much money to go around. We have all had to tighten our belts.

We have seen our costs increase dramatically during the past six years in our town. While you folks look for new revenue streams, sometimes you forget that the stream comes directly from our pockets. We have families in our town that are just tapped out.

As a future mayor or council member what will you personally do to limit the expenses that are incurred from within?

Please remember that as individuals working for private enterprise and as company owners, we are aware of necessary expenses and perks. If one dollar is spent on something that does not directly benefit the citizens of Morinville, then that money, our money has been wasted.

During this term on council many of you will be held to a new level of cost effectiveness. You have all stated that we need to improve our water and sanitary systems, our roads and sidewalks need repairs, our arena needs to be upgraded and now we have to pay for our new community centre. With limited funds in our tax base, you must be very prudent on what you spend our money on.

So folks, with these costs in mind how are you going to cut the expenses in our town, thus saving the working families cash, where it counts in our pocket books?

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4 Comments

  1. PLEASE NOTE – Only Candidates may post comments to this posting. Morinvillenews.com welcomes reader comments on our articles, but we wish to keep these particular segments open for candidates alone so that readers do not have to separate who is and is not vying for their vote.

  2. Good Morning One of the greatest challenges a Town Council faces is balancing the needs of the organization, the wants of the community and the financial impact they both have on property taxes. All we need to do is look at the questions in this excellent “ask a candidate” forum to see what I mean.

    First, to effectively and effiently deliver services we need to have qualified staff being compensated at an appropriate level. The staff are the highest cost item in our budget. To keep our staff and to attract qualifed people we must pay them properly. We also provide them with an adequate benefit package. During the last boom we lost several people to private industry when they were offered wages we simply could not match. We have been able to recruit very able replacements but most often for reasons of quality of life instead of higher wages. A quality of life that includes being home every night, living and working in Town, a pension plan and a solid benefit package that takes care of their families. To protect the investment in our staff we usually offer an annual increase that generally matches the cost of living. The goods and services that we purchase also increase on an annual basis. Items that include but are certainly not limited to power and gas bills, equipment, vehicles, and stationery.

    Second, there are the wants of the community. For example a pool. See my comments on Question 12 for my full commentary on that issue. The short answer is, if we want such a facility in Town we must have additional tax increases to build and operate it. This goes for any new Municipal amenity the community may want to have in Town.

    Third. Utility rates. I do not believe we should be subsidizing our water and sewer rates from property taxes. These are public utilities and should be operated on a cost recovery basis. As some of you will recall, we initially attempted to implement full cost recovery in one major rate increase a few years ago. You filled the council chambers to overflowing to voice your concerns. The council listened to you and implemented a five year phase in plan as you requested. I am very pleased to report we now have our wastewater costs on a full cost recovery basis and the water rates will be there in either 2011 or 2012.

    Lastly, we need to balance those needs and wants with sensible financial management. For 10 consecutive years in the 1990s, the Town Council of Morinville did not increase property taxes. In fact, the policy of the day was to keep taking the same amount of money from the community, which actually decreased the annual tax bill for residents due to new houses being built. In retrospect that was and I believe is, very bad public policy. We needed a few very substantial tax increases a number of years ago to begin to establish a solid financial foundation. For example, we did not have a long range plan for replacing our vehicles. Not to serious when you need a new half ton but when we need to replace our aerial fire truck at over a million dollars and no way to pay. Not good.

    Our infrastructrure was also deteriorating and we had no plan and no financial strategy to stop the decay. Again, not good. I am proud to say that today, under my leadership, we have a very solid asset management program in place with a complementary financial plan to maintain our infrastructure and assets. Including being able to pay for the new aerial fire truck from the vehicle reserve without borrowing one nickel. Long term sustainability planning at its finest !!

    I absolutely believe the days of massive property tax increases to “catch up” are behind us. I am confident we will be able to continue to provide excellent services with property tax increases at the annual inflation rate. We should also be able to provide additional services the community wants from the taxes provided by growth. The only caveat I will put on this tax rate platform is that if the majority of the community tell us they want a new amenity, we will use the same funding strategy we used for the new Cultural Centre. See my comments on Question 9 for the complete commentary.

    The short answer to where I stand on property tax increases going forward. Rate of Inflation + Growth + Dedicated increases for a new amenity.

    Lloyd

  3. Thank you for the questions and your concerns.

    We are all aware that the Tax Payer (I am one of them also) is the only one that puts money in the copper so our community can survive. Taking one (1) dollar in and 90 cents out, the 10 cents goes to reserve funds for future identified items (the need for the community). Some might argue that the Province and Federal government also give us funding. True however, the funding is not permanent like our yearly taxes are.

    We have a 3 to 20 year Capital and Expenditures Plan. We review it every year at budget time to add, delete, or amend it. This helps Council put funding in the right place so we are doing the right and needed thing for Morinville.

    What we are not doing is being pro-active on how the money is spent.

    Are we doing proper due-diligent? Are we asking for quotes from assort businesses in town prior to going elsewhere? Are we evaluating ourselves (Council) on what we are doing and at what cost? The answer to these questions is NO. I, as your new Mayor, will be asking administration to prove to us (Council) that it is needed and how we (Morinville) would benefit from it. Plus make us accountable for our action.

    Thank you

  4. Throughout the budget setting process there are various stages where the public is engaged in providing input. These opportunities are promoted in local media, on the Town website and various other means. My experience is that few people take advantage of these opportunities. That is a shame as budget considerations are something that all residents should want to be involved with.

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