Gregory Moore

Residents call for cuts at town budget meeting

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A crowd of about 30 residents attended the Libro Centre Saturday afternoon and gave their feedback on the proposed 2019 town budget, with much of the feedback being negative.

Director of corporate services Cheryl Horrobin and treasurer Justin Rousseau outlined the budget, which currently calls for a 2.65 per cent tax increase. Rousseau noted that, when combined with the county and education portions, this translates into a 1.93 per cent increase or $78 on a home valued at $250,000.

The recommended water rate increase is 2.5 per cent and the recommended wastewater rate increase is 1.5 per cent, with Rousseau indicating the combined impact of both rate increase recommendations would amount to an average of $18 per household.

Among the potential new hires could include a communications officer, an administrative co-ordinator, three part-time parks general labourers, additional tourism staff and an HR co-ordinator.

Rousseau, as he did when the budget was tabled Jan. 21, noted the capital budget is about $14.5 million with the only item being financed with debt being the next phase of the Edgewater forcemain project. Capital demands are about $38.6 million per year and $135 million over ten years, Rousseau stated.

Director of corporate services Cheryl Horrobin, treasurer Justin Rousseau and CAO John Miceli address a question during the Feb. 2 budget meeting at the Libro Centre.

“This creates a significant funding gap that needs to be addressed,” Rousseau said.

With budget deliberations still to come, there were those that expressed dissatisfaction with what they saw so far.

Ken Thrasher said it was gift giving and gift seeking season and told the town “again, you are asking for more.” He called for “belt tightening” and questioned additional staff requests, including from the tourism department.

“Here we are again, asking for more staff for that department,” Thrasher stated, questioning the economic spin-off and attendance figures that the town gives out after festivals. He also questioned whether tourism is a core service.

While stating he is not against festivals, Thrasher added his belief that private citizens and groups should put them on “like we did in the ’60s and ’70s.”

Thrasher had issues with a proposed BIA, stating costs would be placed on the shoulders of business owners if one were instituted. He also questioned the town’s commitment to youth after the sale of 15 acres of Centennial Park.

Thrasher called for a budget with “true savings to our taxpayers.”

“What is wrong with wanting efficiencies and savings?” he asked.

Believing that if he ran his business like the town is being run, he would go bankrupt, Thrasher pressed those in attendance to voice their displeasure to council members, all of whom were at the meeting.

“Enough is enough,” said Thrasher.

Gordon Moore asked about the format of the budget, as he believed it is tough to compare year-to-year budgets. He also said there was a 40 per cent increase in operating expenses in recent years and further questioned administration on the number of employees the town has.

Rousseau said the town was in severe financial distress four years ago and that there were costs to putting the town on the right financial course. In terms of the number of employees, that is contained in the town’s financial reporting statements.

“It’s all available to you online,” said Rousseau. “The town is transparent.”

CAO John Miceli said the town is in the business of delivering services and that “we have added people to match the service level.”

Rousseau stated the debt has dropped about $10 million to about $35.6 million and that reserves have increased by about $10 million. Miceli added the town has converted to a pay-as-you-go model and that “we’re much more stable than we were in the past.”

Gregory Moore believed there should have been a plan in place to accommodate those who use the Lions Pool and Centennial Park, with Miceli responding there is a Libro Centre master plan in the 2019 budget.

“That will look at everything we should have at the Libro Centre,” said Miceli.

Moore also asked about taxation, believing “we have a problem here. I think we are spending too much in taxes.” He believed people are having difficulty affording a home in Amherstburg.

Amherstburg resident Gregory Moore voices his concerns with the proposed 2019 town budget during a public meeting Feb. 2 at the Libro Centre.

“The property taxes are getting completely out of control. Council needs to tell administration this budget is completely out of control,” he said. “When does the hiring stop? When is enough enough?”

Moore also questioned the hiring requests from the tourism department.

Miceli said the hiring requests are based out of the community strategic plan. He added that there was $7.4 million in economic spin-off to the town from tourism and events last year.

Moore responded by stating people want more efficiency from the town.

“They want more money coming in and less money going out,” he said. “Run it like you run your household budget. This town is becoming unaffordable.”

Nancy Atkinson also questioned the hiring requests from the tourism department while Larry Bezaire had concerns about water and wastewater increases.

“I’m on a fixed income and I’m trying to fix my income,” said Bezaire.

Town council is scheduled to deliberate the budget at meetings at town hall Feb. 12 from 6-10 p.m., Feb. 13 from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and, if required, Feb. 14 from 2-8 p.m.

 

CANDIDATE Q&A – Gregory Moore

 

The town is going through a re-branding process. How would you define what Amherstburg is and how it should be promoted?

Amherstburg does not have a branding problem we have an accommodation problem (hotels). Certainly nothing that warrants almost $80,000 in more spending.

If rebranding was necessary we have a deep resource of high school young adults that are brilliant. This could have been placed in their hands with a specific directive resulting in a win for many students, and a win for the town in the form of local pride and saved taxpayer dollars. (I think we all would have been surprised with their results.)

I would continue to promote Amherstburg as a beautiful town on the water and a real retreat and escape the everyday grind. Amherstburg needs to be promoted as being very pro-business and pro-family community in order to welcome new residents, new growth and outside visitors. In the near future I believe we can attract a hotel and take advantage of our most obvious resource – water. Kayaks, paddle boards, dinner cruises etc., jet ski rental services by private entrepreneurs and more new retailers to realize this vision.

 

Gregory Moore is running for the
position of councillor in the Oct. 22 municipal election.

Taxes and spending will always be election issues. What is the best way to spend money on roads and infrastructure while, at the same time, keeping taxes at a reasonable level?

Our present situation is that we are currently in debt over $50 million dollars. our taxes have continued to rise and so has hiring, spending and operational departmental budgets. Our roads and infrastructure need to be first priority. Period. We need to cut our wants and desires out of the budgets until our debt is at a more reasonable level. We need to continue to grow our tax base. This can be achieved without further tax increases. Our current taxation rate is higher than comparable surrounding communities this needs to be seriously looked at.

 

 

 

 

“Transparency” and “accountability” are words often heard during election campaigns. What specific measures would you undertake to ensure town council lives up to those words?

The first thing I would do to send this message regarding accountability to council is to cut the $1,500 dollar per year cellular phone use at least in half. Next, I would ask for a pay freeze for all council members including the mayor, council and the CAO. Further to this, the almost $3,000 per year per council member for conferences etc. would need to be shaved in order to foster an atmosphere of real transparency and accountability. Once this atmosphere of town solvency is created we can begin to properly balance spending starting with primary needs.

 

 

How would you encourage economic development for the Town of Amherstburg over the next four years (and beyond)?

We need to compel business to come to our town by creating an atmosphere of pro-business by tailoring policy and regulation to fit business. Next, we need a business package for new business in order to create a one stop business program facilitating easy new business start-ups. Lastly, we need to look at tax incentives, tax breaks and permit price reduction or removal for new builds. Money up front may be forgone in order to create a larger permanent tax base.

 

 

The policing issue is still top-of-mind for some of the electorate. Is providing services on a regional level a good way to save money, a detriment to the town and its identity or would you view it on a case-by-case basis?

Providing police service on a regional level may or may not be a financial benefit based on that particular contract. I was firmly against this move concerning our town based on a lack of resident support and lack of real figures in dollars saved. I also personally believe that communities deserve community policing. I cannot see any benefit of having any outside force come in to police another community. The residents were in fact willing to pay more to keep their own force and I happen to agree.

 

 

 

Discretionary spending, finding efficiencies among key issues for Moore

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The vote to contract out policing in Amherstburg to the Windsor Police Service was the big factor for Gregory Moore and his decision to run for town council.

Moore is seeking the position of councillor and said the Feb. 26 policing vote made by the current council is what caused him to decide to run. Moore said he is in opposition to the switch.

“That was the last thing that pushed me over the edge was the farming out of Amherstburg police,” said Moore. “I think the police are a big part of our community. The police and our community go hand-in-hand.”

Moore said that he has watched the decisions council has made the last few years and decided he wants to try and get on council himself.

“I guess I can’t complain if I’m not willing to do something,” he said.

The town’s debt is still large, said Moore, and that a closer look has to be had on the town’s discretionary spending.

“I think that’s a real issue that needs to be looked at,” said Moore.

Gregory Moore is running for the
position of councillor in the Oct. 22 municipal election.

Moore suggested the possibility of the town retaining ownership of the Libro Centre but having a private company manage it in order to reduce the financial liability that operating an arena carries. He said that Duffy’s is synonymous with Amherstburg but wonders if the town was right in purchasing Belle Vue and the former St. Bernard School site when they did.

“If you look at the situation, we can’t afford Belle Vue,” he believed. “We can’t afford St. Bernard School. We really can’t afford these as a town right now.”

If it were not for the debt, Moore stated, “It might be a totally different story.”

Moore stated: “I think spending needs to be frozen for council, the mayor and the CAO until further notice.”

Moore believed the town needs to be “creative” in its operations so that no additional pressures are placed on taxpayers. That includes a look at every town department.

“Everything needs to be looked at. Efficiencies need to be created,” said Moore.

Moore feels the town is on the same footing it was four years ago.

“I think it’s a wash,” he said. “I don’t see it being any better or any worse.”

There are certain expenditures that have to be made, with Moore citing rural roads as an example.

“The roads are worse out there,” he said. “These roads need to be fixed. These are needs, not wants.”

“Rising water and sewage rates need to be reined in,” he stated. “These costs really impact middle income families as well as looking for alternative measures to avoid continual property tax increases.

Moore said he would like to see more activities for both youth and seniors, including programming by the town for seniors that could be merged with existing groups.

More room for fishing from the shoreline is needed in town, stated Moore.

“I believe I can bring something completely different to the table,” he said.

Moore works at Chrysler and has lived in Amherstburg for 20 years after growing up in Harrow. He serves on his church’s board in Colchester. He also fought the province’s sexual education curriculum serval years ago.

“My family has a very long history here in Amherstburg,” he added. “We are direct descendants of the Underground Railroad. My great grandfather Albert Wilson was in fact born here on the shores of Amherstburg after his mom made an escape swimming across the Detroit River.”