Currently Browsing: Debbie in the Community

No Change to Gas Pipeline Route

March 21 Ontario Energy Board rendered its decision to not re-open a review of the gas pipeline to supply the York Energy Centre.  From my reading of their decision their critical decision factor is that King Township had not registered as an intervener in the original proceedings; and then waited nearly 8 months after the decision in April 2010 to ask for a review.  (Recall:  I tabled the motion December 20, 2011 to ask for this review.)

You can read the OEB decision here. Legal Counsel for the current Council made a good effort to explain why the Township had acted or not acted as it did; but, the OEB did not buy it.

Enbridge previously indicated willingness to meet with public to review the project once OEB decision rendered; I anticipate that a meeting will be announced soon and will keep you posted.

Sustainability

Sustainability…….  Everyone is doing it.  Today in my “traditional” mailbox (i.e. the one covered in wet snow) I received a mailing from a well known global consumer products company with an update on their sustainability plan.  And sure, as happens, once everyone is doing it, it is easy to pick out those who haven’t done a good job; and those who are merely putting on a good show of doing it.  That doesn’t mean the concept lacks value.  I would suggest that it simply illustrates that as with everything there are good executions and bad ones.

In case you are wondering what I am talking about:  sustainability is about survival, it is about meeting our needs today BUT without harming the ability of future generations to survive, to meet their needs.

I am going to be writing about sustainability on a regular basis.

Here is the first thing I said about this topic earlier. King Township has decided to develop and execute an integrated sustainability plan.  It is the way we will evolve.

Given our very weak financial position it is quite clear that we need to start running this place differently!  And for sure, my value system is such that I do not want to harm the ability of future generations to meet their needs by doing what is easiest and most comfortable for me.

Over time there will be numerous opportunities for citizen participation in developing our integrated sustainability plan and then living & executing it.  Right now we need Ambassadors and people to join working groups.  If you haven’t seen the advertisement in the local papers or to get more information visit the Township’s website.

I am optimistic about King’s ability to embrace sustainability.  There are many independent sustainability successes to brag about already; what we need to do is get everyone onto to the same page and to streamline the effort.  Council’s deferral on nominating members to the Township traditional committees is in recognition of the need to streamline.

Tax Rate Proposal

A 13.9% increase on King portion of property taxes is recommended in the 2nd draft budget and business plan for King.   Below are the 3 tax scenarios I presented in an earlier posting.  To the right I have added the increase proposed in the 2nd draft budget.

King portion of property tax #1 #2 #3 Proposed in 2nd draft budget
%  increase

7.45

9.26

15

13.9

$ increase on annual tax* 121 150 240 227
$ increase on annual tax** 180 225 360 335

*estimate; based on average King residential property with MPAC assessment of $516,000

**estimate; based on King residential property with MPAC assessment of $750,000

What does a 13.9% increase on King portion of property tax mean to the total rate?

  • Based on the York Region increase being 1.9% and the Education increase being flat, the new blended rate increase is estimated at 5.14%.
  • For a residential property with an assessed value of $516,000 this amounts to an approximate annual increase of $274 or $22.83/month.
  • For an assessed value of $750,000 this amounts to an approximate annual increase of $400 or $33.33/month.

Executive summary of budget is here.

Details of budget and business plan is here.

Program changes (i.e. new projects) are detailed here (both the rationale for implementing and the magnitude of expenditure) and program changes considered but not included in the budget.

2011 Capital Budget details are here.   10 year capital plan is here.

Monday March 7 at 6PM there is a Special Committee of the Whole.  The Public is encouraged to attend and ask questions. Approval of the budget is scheduled for March 28th Council.

Several “big ticket” expenditures have jumped out at me:

Like last year there is $840,000 for debt payment (principal and interest).  Last year only $500,000 was funded by taxes; remainder ($340,000) was taken out of reserves.  This year, there are no funds available from the reserves; it all needs to be funded from the operating budget i.e. from taxes.

A contingency of $500,000 has been built into the operating budget to cover appeals from Golf Courses given the precedent setting MPAC re-assessments.  To understand this issue see page 28 and 29 of the budget report.

Wisely, in my opinion, 1% of township tax rate is being put into infrastructure reserves.  We must be doing this every year.

 

2011 Budget and Tax Rate

Like most people I get anxious when there is talk about a new tax rate.  But now, as an elected representative who will be making a decision about tax rates I am very anxious.  To clarify:  I am not worrying about peoples’ reaction as I know any tax increase is not welcomed.  What I am concerned about is making the right decision.

1st draft budget for 2011 has been labeled as being “pay as you go”  i.e. capital outlays are financed from  current revenues (taxes) and/or reserves rather than by debt.  At first blush this sounds nice & safe.

But, is this good strategic thinking for the Township?  First, are our reserves (i.e. the funds set aside at the discretion of Councils for future need) adequate?  Second, what do we need to be doing in 2011 to ensure that King evolves to where we want it to be ?

You can read the 1st draft budget here.  As you will see it is at a relatively “high level.”

A 2nd draft budget incorporating 1st round of Council feedback will be available imminently; it will be available to the Public February 28th.  I encourage people to look at it and to challenge what is in it and what is not in it.   This draft will be a very detailed.

The 2nd draft budget is on the Monday, March 7th special Council of the Whole meeting; public can make comments at this meeting.  I strongly encourage you to attend; if you can’t attend, send me an email or phone me.

When I am confronted with a problem, I like to be aware of alternative solutions.    Below are three possible scenarios based on the 1st draft budget.  (Different alternatives may emerge once I have a chance to read the detailed budget.)

King portion of property tax #1 #2 #3
%  increase 7.45 9.26 15
$ increase on annual tax* 121 150 240
$ increase on annual tax** 180 225 360

*estimate; based on average King residential property with MPAC assessment of $514,000

**estimate; based on King residential property with MPAC assessment of $750,000

#1 was presented in the 1st draft budget. It represents a strategy of no new services/products.  1/3 of the increase is driven by debt payment.

#2  was presented in the 1st draft budget also.  It includes a handful of “new” initiatives; most significantly being more road maintenance, Township Enterprise Software solution, Staffing for the Trisan centre.

#3 includes some other new initiatives.  And, very importantly it would enable balancing out the net reduction in our reserves in 2010 approved by previous Council.

Yes, a 15% increase sounds outrageous.  But, when are we going to start to address some serious issues in our Township?

For example:  # 1 and 2 includes <$1 million in total for road maintenace when we have a HUGE road maintenance backlog. (Note:  the “official” backlog is estimated to be $90 million but I have heard this discounted as being wildly unrealistic and that perhaps thinking about it as being a $12 million backlog is more rationale.)

Neither #1 or 2 begins to correct the draining of our reserves.   By end of 2011, reserves are forecasted to be down to about $4 million versus being about $8 million in 2008. In 2010 net reduction was $1.2 million.

Our Township website is lacking in a lot of functionality and will not be improved based on #1 and #2.

In closing:   staying calm when talking about property tax rates is difficult.  First, there is the confusion about MPAC rates and how changes get phased in.  Second, the “calculation” of the tax actual rate is not self evident.

The property tax rate which shows on our tax bills is actually a blended rate; it’s a consolidation of the Township rate, York Region’s rate and the education rate.  For example:   At time of writing the YR increase is anticipated to be about 1.9% and the Education increase is anticipated to be flat.   If, the King rate were to increase 15%, the total increase of property taxes for King would be about 6%.

One more thing:   my thinking about the need to be taking a longer term view is not new. You can read here what Councillor Mortelliti wrote about this in May 2010.

Pipeline: exercising our right

Pipeline:  exercising our right

At our December 20th meeting Council unanimously voted on my motion to ask the Ontario Energy Board to direct Enbridge to re-assess the route for supplying the York Energy Centre.

As we subsequently learned, procedures require that the Township first request the right to ask for a hearing; and then if that right is granted we can request the re-assessment.

Our Staff and Township Lawyer are to be congratulated for getting us now to the point where we are asking for the right for a review as this could have been refused.  You can read this request here.

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