Category Archives: Provincial Politics

It’s All About the Money


Tax cartoonAlmost every council decision comes with the subtext question, “Can we afford it?” Everything not procedural or administrative is usually about the cost. Who pays, whose budget does it come from, is the money in reserves, can we get funding, can we use development charges, will it raise taxes, are there other options, are there partnerships – all these questions run through most discussions.

Will it raise taxes? That’s crucial. No one wants to pay more.

The economic path is simple: property owners pay taxes, municipalities spend them. Almost all of the money a municipality gets comes from the taxpayers; a small amount comes from service users (people use facilities, rent venues, pay parking fees, dog licences, etc.) and some comes from grants from higher-tier governments.

It’s council’s responsibility to ensure that the money is spent wisely.

On June 10, council made a decision on how to spend the dividend from the sale of 50% of our electrical utility – Collus. That June 10 agenda was accompanied by a report by the treasurer that had been presented previously, on Feb. 25. It documented the responses from the public on the uses of these funds, and included comment on some of them.

The total amount of money available from that sale was approximately $14.45 million. The  town has on hand $12.28 million in cash and $1.71 in a promissory note ($13.99M total).

Council voted 8-1 to use the funds to pay for the new recreational facilities (approx. $9.8 M) and put the rest into a reserve to upgrade Hume Street (the latter vote was unanimous).

Any other decision would have meant raising taxes in 2014 to cover the costs of the rec facilities. It really was all about the taxes.

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The open government report


Accountability reportOn Monday’s agenda, council received a 21-page report from the clerk on the nature and mechanics of open government in Collingwood. This comprehensive report, titled the “Accountability and Transparency Policy,” because it also introduced a revised, formal policy, listed all of the bylaws, policies and legislation by which council and staff operate.

This is such an important and useful report that I felt it worthwhile to extract it from the April 13 agenda and make it available separately here. If you have not read it, or have any questions about how a council works and the rules that guide us, it’s worth reading. It opens by defining two terms:

Accountability: The principle that the municipality is obligated to demonstrate and take responsibility for its actions, decisions and policies and that it is answerable to the public at large.
Transparency: The principle that the municipality will conduct its business in an accessible, clear and visible manner and that its activities are open to examination by its stakeholders.

The report than goes on to further define how the municipality achieves these goals and why they are important:

Accountability, transparency and openness are standards of good government that enhance public trust. They are achieved through the Town of Collingwood adopting measures ensuring, to the best of its ability, that all activities and services are undertaken utilizing a process that is open and accessible to its stakeholders. In addition, wherever possible, the Town of Collingwood will engage its stakeholders throughout its decision making process which will be open, visible and transparent to the public.

The report then provides a comprehensive list of how we currently comply with the requirements, as well as what we do to enhance and better them:

The Town of Collingwood currently complies with a host of legislation, policies and procedures that maintain an open and transparent decision-making process. For the purposes of the Policy, the Town’s various policies, procedures and practices have been divided into the following categories:
1. Legislated Requirements
2. Financial Accountability, Oversight and Reporting
3. Performance Measurement and Reporting
4. Open Government
5. Internal Accountability and Ethical Standards

I won’t repeat all of the material that follows, but will include the section about “open government” which is really about local governance and the policies and procedures we already have in place to achieve this openness:

Open Government
The following are policies, procedures and practices that ensure the Town is transparent  in its operations and that residents are not only aware of how decisions are made and carried out, but that they are able to participate as well:

  • Council Procedure By-law
  • Public Posting and Distribution of Council Agenda Meeting Documentation
  • Public Notice By-law
  • Procurement By-law
  • Land Sale/Disposal By-law
  • Closed Meeting Investigator Policy and Retainer
  • Facility Naming Policies
  • Committee/Board Recruitment Policies
  • Land Acquisition Guidelines
  • Accessible Barrier Complaint Policy
  • Records Retention By-law
  • Social Media Policy

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