Council should take a more direct role in controlling spending

 In Opinion

Clearview Council met this past Monday to make their modifications to the township staff’s proposed 2016 budget.

As a result, the Clearview tax increase is now sitting at 4.3 per cent.

This change is largely due to staff identifying additional sources of money from the province and by taking previously unspent surplus taxes out of reserve accounts. Overall proposed spending was not reduced, in fact staff increased spending slightly.

Of the total $11 million requested by staff from taxation, council only made a relatively minor reduction of $20,000 dollars.

It has been my contention for many budgets that council should take a more direct role in controlling spending on behalf of its residents. This is not to say that township staff proposes budgets that are wasteful in themselves. But are they essential at this time? Do they acknowledge residential taxpayers’ ability to pay? Are they in line with all the other economic pressures homeowners bear?

I believe council can play a much more active role in determining this on behalf of our residents. In fact, I recall that this council was elected in large part on promises to control expenditures.

Over the past budgets, I have proposed ways to keep taxation in check by focussing on our township’s spending on those things that maintain the current level of service during this period of low growth. Council can best do this by giving staff clear spending guidelines before the budget is prepared by staff, not after. Council has consistently rejected this approach. This year I proposed council establish a hard cap on spending as a first step in a more accountable approach in spending. I plan to provide more detail at our Ward 5 Town Hall this Sunday afternoon. I am anxious to hear comments and suggestions.

The other topic to update you on is that, on Nov. 19, the Niagara Escarpment Commission (NEC) denied the Township’s application for a development permit to reconstruct Sideroad 26/27 to a year-round road. This road project, as well as planned improvements to Concession 10, are an integral part of a road settlement agreement associated with the Walker quarry expansion that resulted in the closing of a portion of County Road 91 between Grey Highlands and Clearview Township. The NEC cited concerns for the impact the works would have on the brow of the escarpment and determined that the work is not essential as County Road 91 already provides access down the escarpment.

The future of the road settlement agreements that would transfer a portion of County Road 91 to Clearview and another portion closed and transferred to Walker Industries is now unclear and pending a Township appeal.

The decisions to be undertaken should now be determined through a comprehensive regional transportation study involving all affected parties and not left in the hands of Clearview Township alone to determine. This NEC decision should open the road settlement agreement, determine who has jurisdiction over 91 and what portions of 91 should remain as a designated haul route. All this should flow from a much more open and collaborative process.

Both of these topics, as well as others, will be open for discussion this Sunday, Nov. 29th, in Creemore, at Station on the Green, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Please come and express your opinions.

Thom Paterson is the Clearview Township council representative for Ward 5, including Creemore and Avening.

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