Town council

Town council’s remuneration report for 2017 released

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

How much money were your elected officials paid in 2017?

The answer was revealed as part of the agenda for the March 19 town council meeting. Treasurer Justin Rousseau stated in his report to town council that municipal treasurers are required under Section 284 of the Municipal Act to provide their councils “an itemized statement of remuneration and expense payments in the previous year.”

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo’s total remuneration was $45,071.97 for 2017. That includes his salary at $32,506.70 with the remainder including his $7,040 in remuneration (salary, meeting fees and travel/mileage) from being on the Essex Powerlines board as well as his communication allowance, per diem, public reception and travel and mileage from the town. He also earned $1,200 for being on the Amherstburg Police Service Board (APSB).

Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale’s remuneration for 2017 was $22,430.90. The salary for being deputy mayor is $21,658.25 with the remainder being his legal fees, communication allowance, public receptions and travel and mileage.

All councillors earned a salary of $18,141.05.

The total remuneration for Councillor Rick Fryer was $22,303.87. That includes his salary, communication allowance and public receptions. Also included is Fryer’s remuneration for being on the ERCA board of directors, where he serves as the chair. His honorarium, per diem and mileage for being on the ERCA board totalled $2,767.

Councillor Joan Courtney’s total remuneration for 2017 was $22,071.56 That included her salary and the other associated expenses such as her communication allowance, training and conferences as well as her travel and mileage.

A total remuneration total of $21,533.09 was attributed to Councillor Leo Meloche for 2017. That included his salary plus his communication allowance, public receptions, training and conferences and travel and mileage.

Councillor Diane Pouget’s total 2017 remuneration was $19,869.39. That included her salary plus communication and legal fees.

Councillor Jason Lavigne had a total remuneration of $19,386.02. That includes his salary plus public receptions as well as his $1,200 honorarium for being on the APSB.

Also receiving $1,200 APSB honorariums were Bob Rozankovic and Patricia Simone. Ron Sutherland received $1,150.80 for his mileage and per diem being Amherstburg’s second appointee to the ERCA board of directors.

Appointees to the committee of adjustment who received $975 in 2017 included Sherry Ducedre, Duncan Smith and Donald Shaw while Michael Prue and David Cozens each earned $900. Simon Chamely and Shirley Curson-Prue from the heritage committee went to the Ontario Heritage Conference last year and their expenses were $1,511.94 and $1,668.14 respectively. William Whittal’s honorarium for being on the accessibility committee was $300 for the year while the honorariums, training and mileage expenses for the drainage board members – Robert Bezaire, Brad Laramie, Allan Major, Bob Pillon and Ron Sutherland – totalled $4,663.97 for 2016.

Amherstburg Fire Department trying new method to save money on resources

By Ron Giofu

 

Though the Amherstburg Fire Department will continue with tiered response for medical calls in conjunction with Essex-Windsor EMS, expect to see fewer firefighters respond to calls.

Fire chief Bruce Montone said they are looking to change the way they do business with regards to attendance at low priority calls, noting that upwards of 13 firefighters attend calls. Pointing out the expense to do that, Montone said they are going to cut back on those numbers.

Montone stated that, upon review of the data from thus far in 2017, there aren’t as many calls where firefighters make a large difference versus the amount they actually go out on. He said, as of the Dec. 11 town council meeting, that they responded to 61 medical calls.

“When we further looked into the detail, only 14 of those calls would be ordinarily, under all of the other criteria of the agreement, would we have responded and made a difference,” he said.

Firefighters will be broken up into squads with the squads going out on a rotating basis. Alarm calls with no significant injuries and car crashes where the main duty of firefighters would be to control fluid spills would also see a reduced number of firefighters respond.

Fire chief Bruce Montone

In his report to town council, Montone stated: “Each fire station has assigned 20 volunteer firefighters including officers. It is suggested that each station organize into two groups or squads lead by a volunteer captain and made up of roughly equal numbers of firefighters (nine and ten) plus the responsible district chief attached to both groups which would be called on a rotating basis for those calls not requiring large amounts of resources.”

The chief added that currently a station of 20 firefighters on average has 13 firefighters initially for a 60 per cent turnout rate.

“It is estimated that for those calls and utilizing squads, assuming the same 60 per cent turnout rate from calling a squad of nine or ten, we would see five or six firefighters attend/respond to calls not requiring large amounts of resources,

reducing our costs by approximately half for applicable calls,” Montone also reported.

Montone said in his report that, as of Oct. 17, the cost of responding to medical calls has been $71,530 for the Amherstburg Fire Department. He envisions a cost savings of 40-50 per cent under the new plan.

Town approves 2018 budget in principle

 

By Ron Giofu

While it won’t be formally approved until the Dec. 11 town council meeting, it is now clear what the tax rate increase will be.

Amherstburg taxpayers will see their taxes go up 2.29 per cent this year, meaning a home assessed at $200,000 will see a $43.29 increase. The tax rate increase itself was whittled down from the original two per cent to 0.83 per cent with the two per cent levies being increased by 0.75 per cent increase.
Treasurer Justin Rousseau said the increase to the levies will allow for an additional $300,000 to be placed into the town’s reserves for capital infrastructure projects.

When school board and county taxes are factored in, the tax increase would be 1.69 per cent, Rousseau added, or $54.31 on a $200,000 home.

Among the big ticket capital items is the reconstruction of Creek Road. Approximately $1.4 of the estimated $1.7 million cost to rebuild that road from Meloche Road to County Road 20 is expected to be paid out in 2018.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo was pleased with how deliberations went.

“Yet again, council found a very reasonable balance between what the town needs and what the residents thought was affordable,” said DiCarlo.

DiCarlo noted that not everyone gets what they want at budget time and while a series of positions – Councillor Rick Fryer said eight – were approved, a number of other jobs were not. The mayor noted that some costs did go up for the town and that has to be passed along.

“If bills go up at home, they go up at town hall and we have to compensate for that,” he said.

An increase in growth requires additional resources, the mayor added, and “at the beginning of that growth, there has to be investments. I think that’s where we’re at now.”

The roads needs study makes a lot of the decisions on capital projects easy, DiCarlo stated, as it shows what roads needs resources. Creek Road was “not a big surprise,” he added.

The town added resources in places where he believed they are needed. Some of the new positions include a financial analyst, a engineering technician, 1.5 new people for the tourism department and a part-time policy co-ordinator.

Others were rejected including a communications officer, a part-time committee co-ordinator an a supervisor of roads and fleet. The latter had been approved Wednesday afternoon but later cut when council resumed after a dinner break as three members of the six present believed there were too many management positions to oversee the six employees.

Even with the new positions, DiCarlo was happy the tax rate itself came in under one per cent.

“That’s nothing short of amazing to me. That was no small feat. Council deserves some credit for that,” he said.

The levy increases were at roughly the same rate as the cost of living and “that’s unbelievable,” the mayor added.

“The big thing for me is the big picture,” said DiCarlo. He said year over year, the tax rate keeps coming down, reserves and capital investment increase while long-term debt is decreasing.

“Those are definitely heading in the right direction,” he said.

Among the grant requests approved in principle were $5,000 for Amherstburg Community Services (ACS), $1,500 for Amherstburg Food and Fellowship Mission, $6,500 for the Amherstburg Freedom Museum and $8,500 for the Park House Museum. Grant requests for the Cat Assistance Team (CAT) and SNAP for Cats will be addressed after administration comes back with a report.

Town council also agreed with Rose City Gymnastics request to waive over $12,000 in rental fees for next year’s Ontario Provincial Artistic Gymnastics championships at the Libro Centre, an event that is expected to draw 1,200 participants and 5,000 visitors to Amherstburg. However, that has already upset user groups who already use the Libro Centre, particularly in light of town council sticking with its own surcharge option and not going with the one user groups presented last Monday night.

….MORE TO COME….

Various concerns raised by public at budget meeting

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

It was a small crowd but a crowd that came with questions last Saturday afternoon.

The town held a public information meeting regarding the proposed 2018 budget at the Libro Centre with roughly a dozen people attending the nearly two-hour session. Among the crowd were members of council including Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale and councillors Leo Meloche and Diane Pouget with Mayor Aldo DiCarlo joining CAO John Miceli, treasurer Justin Rousseau and other department heads at the head table.

Miceli and Rousseau outlined the budget, similar to what they did at the Nov. 6 meeting when the budget was tabled, and the current recommendation is for a two per cent increase to the tax rate and 0.75 per cent increases to each of the two levies to address the town’s growing infrastructure needs. The net capital budget request is about $41.3 million with the funding sources the town has available to deal with this request without additional debt being nearly $4.2 million.

The town forecasts $24.1 million in operating expenses in 2018, as compared to $22.7 million in 2017. General rated expenses, with capital and debt payments, are budgeted to be $27.1 million in 2018 versus $25.7 million for 2017. Total collectible through the tax rate is budgeted at $20.9 million for 2018 as compared to $20.1 million in 2017.

Miceli outlined a number of plans, including the strategic plan and asset management plan among others, that the town has undertaken. He said Amherstburg “must continue to be proactive and not reactive” as it pertains to infrastructure and said among the new studies proposed are a master aging plan and a town-wide service master study, the last one to consider possibly over-sizing of infrastructure to allow for 1,500 lots in the core.

Town council and administration fielded questions at a Nov. 18 budget meeting at the Libro Centre. Pictured are (from left): director of engineering and public works Antonietta Giofu, director of planning, development and legislative service, treasurer Justin Rousseau, CAO John Miceli and Mayor Aldo DiCarlo.

Local resident Roger Hudson believed that assessment values should be reflected in what is reported as a tax increase. He said he didn’t experience a 1.87 per cent tax increase last year, but instead faced a 3.44 per cent increase due to growth in his assessment. While the town states it faces a 2.37 per cent growth factor on average in assessment growth, Hudson stated that most people have no idea what that means.

“I didn’t know it was going to be a tax increase,” he said.

Town officials argued that they can only control the tax rate and that the municipality has to work with the numbers the province gives them in terms of assessments.

“It’s only 3.44 per cent for you,” DiCarlo told Hudson.

DiCarlo said his personal assessment went up 11 per cent at his home, and said it is different for each property.

“The only number we can control is our portion,” the mayor stated. “The 2.37 per cent is only the average based on what the province gives us. On a house-by-house basis, taxes may go up way more.”

Rousseau said residents have the option of appealing their assessments to MPAC, with Meloche saying people are taxed on what their new assessment value is and that the tax rate and assessment increase numbers aren’t compounded.

John McDonald asked for further information on unfunded liabilities, noting that some U.S. municipalities have “crashed” because of not being able to afford them. Miceli said that is the American model and that the Canadian model is different.

Sarah Gibb questioned the additional new jobs proposed within the budget and wondered what the new roles would be. DiCarlo said that “some of these positions are not brand new” and said in some cases, it is a job change.

DiCarlo told the public while there are ten new jobs being talked about, some jobs were either changed or eliminated with costs offset elsewhere.

“It is not the case,” he said of the ten new positions.

Miceli said there is a mix of full-time, part-time and contract positions being proposed and attempted to justify the proposals. Using tourism department as an example, the CAO stated tourism is up 38 per cent in Amherstburg with two people in the tourism department and that one of those staff members hasn’t been able to use her full vacation allotment in three years.

“That’s problematic,” said Miceli. “I look at that and say ‘can this person continue to sustain that?’ and ‘is it fair for this person to sustain that?’” I would say no.”

Miceli said residents should look at all documents approved by the town – including the Deloitte Report and all the plans and guidelines the town is working on – to understand why positions are proposed. Such documents as the strategic plan have already had public participation, he said, adding the town doesn’t have the resources to implement what the plans’ recommendations are “in an effective and responsible way.”

Local resident John McDonald asks a question of town council and administration during the Nov. 18 budget meeting at the Libro Centre in Amherstburg.

Marc Renaud, president of the Amherstburg Minor Hockey Association (AMHA), questioned a proposed $6/hr. surcharge for AMHA users and said they would rather have a one per cent increase in ice rate charges. Renaud believed that would cause AMHA’s rates to “go through the roof” but Miceli stated that, according to his numbers, AMHA is among the lowest in the region and could charge an additional $63.50 per user just to get to the median.

Miceli said there is a cost to maintaining the Libro Centre but Renaud said facilities like that are built to draw families to the community. Renaud estimated that about 30 families in AMHA have to be subsidized through Canadian Tire’s Jumpstart program.

DiCarlo told the RTT after the meeting that “the first thing you’ve got to notice is the lack of turnout.” He said it has been his experience that people generally turn out when there is a problem.

“If people do have a problem with how we are operating, you better let us know otherwise the first reaction is that we are doing a good job,” said the mayor.

There has been a lot of comments via social media, DiCarlo acknowledged, and that the town does care about all comments and that he wants to ensure people know their comments and opinions matter.

The questions about MPAC assessments and the impact on taxes comes up annually, he said. As for the questions about new job openings, DiCarlo urged the public to fully read the budget documents and educate themselves as he admitted frustration regarding the perception the town isn’t as transparent as it should be.

Rather, the mayor believed, the town is transparent “to a fault” and that positions listed as new jobs are actually reclassified jobs. Many of the jobs that are new additions are needed, he believed, first citing the building department. He said that department had more bodies several years ago but downsized and now that the town has seen an increase in building activity, “the building department can’t keep up.”

The same is true of the tourism department, DiCarlo stated.

“We are doing what we said we were going to do. We can’t be any more transparent,” DiCarlo said. “If we couldn’t, we said why.”

As it stands now, the proposed two per cent increase in the municipal tax rate would translate into a $36.77 increase on a $200,000 home while the increase in levies would amount to a $29.66 increase each. When the county and school board rates are factored in, Rousseau said that drops the forecasted property tax increase to 1.52 per cent.

Town council is expected to deliberate the 2018 budget Nov. 28 from 6-10 p.m., Nov. 29 from 2-8 p.m. and, if necessary, Nov. 30 from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Should all go according to plan, the 2018 budget could be passed at the Dec. 11 town council meeting.

Belle Vue Conservancy gives update to town council

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Belle Vue Conservancy has given town council an update on their progress.

Conservancy president Shirley Curson-Prue appeared before town council at the Sept. 25 meeting to give elected officials, administration and the public more information on what has been collected through donations and other fundraising.

The information regarding cash-on-hand was as of Sept. 14 with that information showing that $115,946.23 had been received. A breakdown of that figure showed that $9,045 was collected through online donations while $60,936 came in through cheques. Other sources of revenue factored into the overall total included the $5,200 made from the WSO “Leading Notes” concert at Christ Church, the $8,000 raised from “Golf Birdies and Bogies” golf tournament and the $28,000-plus won in the National Trust for Canada’s “This Place Matters” online crowdfunding contest.

Other revenue collected by the Belle Vue Conservancy includes $9,861.80 in in-kind donations receipted, $5,049.20 from their recent yard sale, $90,600 in donation commitments and roughly $25,000 from the “Puttin’ on the Ritz” fashion gala at Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery.

Belle Vue Conservancy president Shirley Curson-Prue (left) addresses town council as treasurer Michael Prue holds the painting of Belle Vue done by artist Peter Rindlisbacher.

Curson-Prue pointed out additional funds will be raised through the sale of prints of Peter Rindlisbacher’s painting of the building and future fundraising efforts. She indicated there is a grant they are looking at applying for but noted the application deadline is Oct. 6.

Curson-Prue thanked the donors, town and River Town Times for their assistance in fundraising, and noted that the funds raised thus far could be put to use. She shared a motion from the conservancy’s Sept. 11 meeting which requested that money raised and deposited with the Amherstburg Community Foundation be used to repair the roof, clean out and repair eavestroughs, install solar lighting and cameras to deter trespassers, remove asbestos, repair “targeted windows” using $10,000 of the “This Place Matters” prize money, utilize pro bono cleanup and allow monthly cleanup of the grounds by staff and volunteers.

Councillor Joan Courtney praised the work of the conservancy and said they are working “non stop” on trying to restore the 200-year-old building.

“What you’ve achieved already is awe-inspiring,” said Curson-Prue.

Later in the meeting, concern was brought forth by residents about a possible roadway to Belle Vue from Sandwich St. S. CAO John Miceli said the roadway is conceptual at this point and that it has not been formally approved by council.

Miceli indicated that local projects, including Belle Vue, have to be looked at for what is good for the community as a whole. He added that the parking lot just south of the police station is still required for municipal business and that while it needs to be paved to live up to municipal bylaws, the site itself is not designated historical.

“The attractions that would have made it a heritage site were removed in the 1960’s,” said Miceli.