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Tomorrow night, March 24th, we will have what should be the final Council meeting to discuss and agree the 2014 Town of Parry Sound budget. At the last session of Council, the 18th, there was a bit of ‘tension’ regarding the budget. Council seemed to be annoyed with Staff because they did not make the requested cuts in expenses to reach the 1% budget target, but rather found increased revenue to cover the gap. At the same time there was the suggestion on Council that rather than approve a 1% increase in the levy rate the Town look at a 0% increase, or even a rate decrease. This was met with some disdain by other members of Council but was not rejected outright. All of this led to the decision to have another meeting.

As an aside, I wish that the Councillors would declare whether or not they are running for Council once again. The decision to actually drop the tax rate, and draw from the rate stabilization reserve, will have an impact on the Council that will be elected this fall. I would have more support for Councillors that want to drop the tax rate and are willing to live with the consequences during their next term of Council, not cut and run. Dropping the rate this year will have a compounded impact on the budget for years to come (that 1% or 2% difference will be carried over to each and every year going forward, until there is a sharp increase). And they shouldn’t plan on dipping any further into the Parry Sound Hydro windfall. Having that kind of money as a slush fund to make up deficits and grease the election is not what the town residents expect or are willing to accept.

Staff in the interim has found the necessary savings in the budget to meet the original goal of a 1% levy increase. So the decision to drop the tax rate will need to come out of reserves, or the $3.9 million payment related to the Parry Sound Hydro merger.

The food fight? Well when Council meets at 6:00 or earlier the Town provides a catered dinner, nothing too fancy. I’m okay with that, they don’t need to be hypoglycemic when discussing Town business seeing that they rush over from their day jobs to make a 6:00 meeting. But given the evident difference of opinion regarding the tax rate I’m sort of hoping for a food fight. But you will need to be there to catch it. These budget meetings are not recorded and replayed on Cogeco. That’s a shame, even if the food stays on the plates.

Keeping an Eye on the Goings On! (Parry Sound in Black & White)

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Note: the revised budget with the latest expense cuts is posted on the Town’s website, here’s the link – http://www.townofparrysound.com/pagesmith/14. It’s the March 24th agenda. As you will read there is a little bit more on the agenda as well.

There’s also a last minute closed meeting of Council on the 25th. Here’s what’s on the agenda:
“That pursuant to Section 239(2) of the Municipal Act, R.S.O. 2001, Chapter 25, as amended, the Council of the Corporation of the Town of Parry Sound move to a meeting closed to the public in order to address a matter(s) pertaining to:
a) the security of property of the municipality or local board. (Industrial Park Board), b) personal matters about an identifiable individual, including municipal or local board employees. (Board Governance, Council Board Representation, Integrity Commissioner Report)”