Essex County council votes down proposed EWSWA budget

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The proposed Essex-Windsor Solid Waste Authority (EWSWA) budget has been rejected by Essex County council.

County council unanimously rejected the budget last Wednesday night. The EWSWA budget calls for a zero percent increase in 2017 as well as 2018. The budget was arrived at by the authority Nov. 29 but county representatives slammed the budget that was approved due to Windsor having a majority of members on the board.

A 4.11 per cent increase had been recommended but by passing it with a zero per cent increase, it meant a dip into the EWSWA’s rate stabilization reserve thus bringing it down from $13.2 million to $12.2 million.

Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara said the zero per cent budget is “ludicrous” and that operating the landfill with a rate freeze is not realistic.

“At some point in time, you’ve got to pay,” said McNamara. “It makes no sense to me.”

Such factors as rising fuel costs at the landfill have to be dealt with, he continued, and that it was “foolish” to try and accommodate everything “by the skin of your teeth.

“You’ve got to find money somewhere and pay the fiddler up front,” said McNamara. “To me, this is a disservice to our taxpayers in the future. We are mortgaging our future to look good today.”

LaSalle Mayor Ken Antaya, one of the county representatives on the EWSWA board, said he was “surprised beyond belief” that the budget was approved at the authority level with a zero per cent increase. He also questioned whether procedures were violated by passing a motion regarding the 2018 budget.

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To reconsider that motion requires a two-thirds majority, and Antaya was resigned to the fact the county didn’t have enough votes to do so. He also shared similar concerns to McNamara.

“By not paying the bill today, we’re just delaying it for the next generation,” said Antaya.

County council members were also concerned that if a zero per cent increase proceeds for the next two years, EWSWA administration projects that the rate increase could be as high as 9.87 per cent in 2019.

Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos believed the freezing of rates for two years was more due to “political expediency” than anything else. He believed they would be “going down the wrong path” by approving the budget as presented.

“It doesn’t make business sense,” said Santos.

Essex Mayor Ron McDermott, another member of the EWSWA board, said the county representatives were “100 per cent against” the zero per cent increase. He questioned why city representatives didn’t listen to EWSWA administration as “they do the work” in preparing the budget.

“(Windsor) could care less about families, they could care less about their neighbours,” stated McDermott. “We’re going backwards at zero per cent. I can’t see us doing anything but turn this down. This is terrible that anyone could even think of this.”

There isn’t a lot of “fat” in the EWSWA budget, added Leamington Deputy Mayor Hilda MacDonald, adding county representatives were told they have a “traditional” approach to budgeting.

“To me, this is shortsighted,” said MacDonald. “This doesn’t give a fig about 20 years from now.”

MacDonald added there is no money devoted towards the landfill for its eventual replacement and all the attention is on the debt.

“I think we are realistic,” she said of the county’s approach. “I think it’s common sense. We’re thinking down the road.”

Kingsville Deputy Mayor Gord Queen also blasted the city’s stance and that a near-10 per cent increase would “not be acceptable, period.” Lakeshore Deputy Mayor Al Fazio said recommendations dropped from 5.6 per cent to 4.11 per cent before it was approved by the city at zero per cent.

“The bottom line is it’s a sham,” said Fazio.

Fazio agreed that “you pay now or you pay later,” noting that “there’s not one person that wants to pay taxes.” He also asked whether the issue of 2018 was even on the agenda.

By turning it town, an ad hoc committee featuring administration from both Essex County and Windsor will help set a new budget for both councils to consider.

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