“ BMRA serves in an advocacy role with Town Council and staff on behalf of ratepayers to ensure and enhance our community’s quality of life.”
“Keeping the BMRA membership informed”
Town of blue Mountains 2020 budget
Town of Blue Mountains 2020 Budget
Blue Mountain Ratepayers Association (“BMRA”)
Analysis for Members
The Town of Blue Mountains 2020 Budget – A Silver Cloud with a Black Lining
Certainly, the topline numbers for the Town of Blue Mountains budget are quite positive. Given the significant level of residential development, the growth in new assessment dollars have allowed the Town to provide additional services and increase staffing while enabling a slight decrease to our 2020 property tax rate. Unfortunately, the County levy has increased – more on that later – but thankfully the tax bills for TBM residents will be slightly lower when compared to 2019. So, while that does qualify as good news, there are some serious issues that will prove very challenging in the years ahead.
These issues include:
- Inadequate capacity for the Town’s growing workforce at Town Hall. During 2018 and 2019 the town added 21 additional staff but now can’t place some of the new staff within the town’s office floor plan. Some staff will be placed in office space close to but external to the Town Hall. Remember the Town Hall was only completed 9 years ago (in 2011) and is already in an overflow staff capacity condition. With a strong likelihood the Town will have to add more resources as TBM continues to grow, we will require further investment in office facilities. This shows short sightedness on the part of prior Councils, under whose watch the Town Hall was planned and constructed. We hope our current Council will take a longer-term view in planning future facility requirements.
- Closing the “infrastructure gap” – getting shovels in the ground to modernize our roads, wastewater, drinking water and community facilities. As we have stated previously, this is an absolute necessity if our growth is to be sustainable, and our quality of life maintained. The Town has approved finances to support $10s of millions of dollars worth of capital projects that will modernize and expand our civil works infrastructure. We recognize the Town has added new staff resources to manage, facilitate and communicate these important projects, but the $100,000s of thousands of dollars cost overrun we are currently experiencing on our wastewater treatment plant upgrade clearly demonstrates how difficult the task will be while trying to stay within the proposed capital budgets.
Of course, the other challenge we face in building the required infrastructure is that 60% of our municipal tax dollars leave the Town – 40% go to the County, and 20% to the School Board. With such a significant drain on TBM resources, it becomes that much more difficult to fund the investment we need. For point of comparison, and to clearly illustrate the financial challenge TBM faces with our obligation to the County, the other municipalities in Grey County keep on average almost 60% of their property taxes for their own use. We’re clearly doing a lot of heavy lifting on behalf of Grey. Following the BMRA’s February deputation to the County regarding their 2020 budget, we were to meet with the CAO and Directors of Finance and Planning to push for greater accountability and transparency. That meeting has understandably been delayed due to current circumstances, but we will ensure it happens when our situation allows.
- The last two Town budgets appear to lack the funding for stated political priorities of Attainable Housing and doctor recruitment. It may well be that there will be resources made available beyond the Town’s core budget to support these high priority initiatives, but more detail is required so that we can get the full picture on how they will move forward.
- Limited progress with Zero Based Budgeting (ZBB) implementation, recognizing this didn’t get out of the starting gate until Q4 2019. The objective of ZBB is to find more efficient ways to deliver services and allocate resources – the expectation is that the 2021 Town budget will show the benefits of this exercise.
- Community/Recreational Hub(s). We have not received any updates on the development of a community facilities strategy. In 2019 the Library proposed a substantial expansion, in part to help address our inadequate community facilities. Council turned the request down, but in its place was to be a discussion regarding development of community hub(s) that might include new library, recreation, daycare and community spaces. Communities such as Owen Sound and Hanover have outstanding facilities. Where is ours? Let’s push the dialogue this year. Ever increasing construction costs may impact our ability to fund these much-needed facilities. We would anticipate the Town will be prudent in investing in our current Library and Recreation Centre facilities in the absence of the long-term strategic roadmap.
This communication will provide the substance of a submission the BMRA Budget Review Committee will make to Town Council March 30.
Budget Review Committee of the BMRA