Hurricane Sandy dumbs it down for us.

Huricane Sandy

I managed to attend last night’s council meeting. There were a number of items that I noticed on the agenda that I found interesting.

The first was Steve Assaff’s (Charis Developments) application to turn the old library into 6 condo units. Steve was there in person to make part of the presentation. This is the first time I have seen him in person. He looks younger than he looks in his photographs, that doesn’t really have anything to do with this post just an observation. As you can imagine I have sat through a few of these types of presentations in the past six months, one thing that struck me is the kid glove handling of this local developer by all concerned compared to others that have gone before this group. Another thing I noticed was how the mighty have fallen. From developer of an iconic 6 storey mainstay of the downtown to a 6 unit development to house a few of the chosen buyers from the Admiral Building. No further comment required other than it’s good to see at least one of this developers properties moving forward.
Next item of interest to me was the 2012 financial statements. I would like to say right here to you my readers it is too bad that this town council made such a dog’s breakfast out of the recreation and a couple of other major files, because they have actually handled the books rather well. Debt is down from $45 million to $38 million since they were all voted in. No small accomplishment in these tough economic times especially with no or very small property tax increases. That being said this segment brings me to how the title of this post came about. I always pay close attention to Sandy Cunningham he is a bloggers dream when it comes to his show boating at town council meetings, again he didn’t disappoint. Sue Bragg of Gaviller and Company did a very professional and eloquent presentation on the town’s finances that really left nothing to the imagination. A couple of councilors ask pertinent questions about certain line items on the document. Then it was Sandy’s turn to speak, this isn’t word for word but close:

Hurricane Sandy: The debt has been brought down seven million dollars since 2010.

Sue Bragg: Um yes that is correct. (I think Chadwick had already asked what the debt was in 2010)

Hurricane Sandy: I want to make this clear so that everyone out there understands. We have reduced the debt since this council was elected by seven million dollars?

Sue Bragg: Yes
Thanks for dumbing it down for us Sandy, what would we all do if you weren’t there to explain it to us simple folks. You get the gist of what he is telling us right? Good send him an email and thank him for clearing that up for us.

Last but not least (of what I was interested in anyway) was the town’s unanimous decision to go to Simcoe County on behalf of Pretty River Academy to defer the county portion of the development charges for the sports dome. Yet again Sandy dumbed it down for us:

Hurricane Sandy: To be clear, this is a deferral not a cancellation of the development fees. The public needs to know this.
It’s a damn good job Sandy is at the council table making sure us poor saps are getting this complicated stuff explained to us by him.


2 thoughts on “Hurricane Sandy dumbs it down for us.

  1. Rather surprised with this take after the previous well done piece on Ontario, especially the nod to this council about performance.

    Financial Assets indicate drop in 2012 of $8m from selling a revenue earning asset, so that flips the “well managed” debt drop of $7m. Tax revenue up $500k, User charges&Reserve Contibution&Capital Asset Sale all up $400k each to budget. Tax & User charges are not managed by council they just happen and in this case perform better than expected. Really not sure why budget was set so low which doesn’t necessarily indicate “well managed” either. These items are the big ones that saved this council from actually ending up in the Net Expense situation that they budgeted for(another indication of suspect governance as they should be zero base budgeting) and probably us townspeople from a tax hike, at least for now. Expenses were $350k higher in 2012 than budget and $1.2M higher than 2011, so spending control certainly isn’t in evidence so it shouldn’t be taken credit for.

    Further, a gain on sale of their GBE(electric company) of $4M is the major factor to them that they or future councils won’t ever have again. But also since no analysis was ever shown to public (even though the request is logged in the council’s approved Staff report of the public meeting) of the total GBE sale proceeds and what expenses were incurred and who they went to, there is no way to analyze how well this sale was handled for the taxpayer. That should have been in the report and council knows that.

    Note 17 Comparison to Budget is the exhibit that shows this council is a micorcosm of Ontario’s mis-management, or certainly raises the question if they even understand budgeting. Yes the summary total looks like it is okay but the dramatically different actual amounts to budget, off by multi-millions of $s on 7 line items!, just can’t happen under good management. Over this past year rushed (recreation) and excess spending(fire hall) while real bricks and mortar issues are delayed (Hume St.), these are indicators of poor governance.

    Don’t envy next year’s new council’s situation as they are going to have to be the one’s that deal with us about the reality of our financial position. They will at least be able to look back at these years and uncover more of the actual story of what happened which may help to make us understand why tough decisions are going to have to be made in the future. Facts and figures disclosure will be the next council’s mandate and a welcomed one.

    • Wow! Thank-you for such a detailed explanation of the “balanced budget” and “debt reduction.” You clearly have some knowledge of municipal politics. Are you the same Richard Hill that authored the recent letter to the editor?

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