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My View: Springwater Budget – 0 Tax Rate Increase

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In Council Watch
Jan 21st, 2021
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Part of a consultant’s expectation of how Springwater tax rates, driven by the Midhurst development, will rise and fall over the next 20 years. Full slideshow presentation.  Webcast of meeting (1 hour long). 

By Bill French Springwater News

I just want to make a comment on the flaw in the Mayor’s recent article where he defended NOT SUPPORTING a 0 tax rate increase for the 2021 budget year. A majority of Council supported the 0 tax increase because of these special pandemic times where many are falling behind with the loss of jobs and income. I again congratulate Councillors Hanna, Ritchie, Moore and Cabral on their wisdom and sensitivity to what is happening around us.

The Mayor’s logic is common in many of our local municipalities with their simple argument “everything is going up and we have no choice but to increase taxes or fall behind with the level of service”. If municipalities were not growing that would be a legitimate argument. However Springwater and most of the neighbouring municipalities are growing at about 2 to 5 % which means their income from new assessments and the increase in existing assessments should comfortably cover any increases in costs if someone is managing the ship. The reason is simple, it is called “economies of scale” where you get more or broader services for the same money.

If businesses ran their operations with the concept of our Mayor, they would quickly become non-competitive and fail in their business ventures.

COVID-19 -Stay at Home Order

There is no question, this Stay at Home order is more confusing than the first lockdown especially the absence of the personal bubble of 10 people which allowed people to retain some sanity. Since I am home a lot and get to frequently hear the deafening and sudden sounds of gunshots from the Barrie Gun Club that is less than 600 metres from my property line, I was curious how they can still be in operation.

The fact that the BGC outdoor ranges shoot to the east, the sound travels easily because of our predominately westerly winds towards me. In most cases the sound level at my house is well above safety standards. You should come and listen sometime. Most people when they visit ask the question, “how is that even permitted?” The answer is simple. They have more influence than I do with the government.

Back to my main point. Think about it, Gun Ranges are allowed to stay in operation during all phases of COVID-19 restrictions including this lockdown and the orders to not travel unless necessary. Is the exercising of your trigger finger such an essential service that gun ranges must stay open and pollute and irritate the neighbours in a time of tension? What makes it worse is many members travel from outside our area to inhale and smell vapourized lead as they blow a small clay pigeon to smithereens.

This is an example of why our government’s COVID orders on most people are falling on deaf ears because of the inconsistent logic of what is open and what is closed. It appears the BGC is more sacred and more essential than my opportunity to attend Sunday Mass. How does that make sense?

Springwater Long Term Financial Plan

I have often criticized this Council for fast tracking the approvals for the mega developments in Midhurst known as the Midhurst Secondary Plan that would see close to 10,000 homes built over the next 20 or so years. I advocated that launching the development without an updated Long Term Financial Plan (LTFP) was careless and foolhardy. I won’t go into the details, but this week the Council was presented with the LTFP by Watson and Associates and the future as a Springwater Taxpayer is bleak.

Read it for yourself but the reality is that there will be many increased costs in new infrastructure and operating. The Midhurst Secondary Plan accounts for 75% of all developments and over the next 20 years will create the pressure, yet will contribute less than its fair share or effectively about 30% less per unit than other developments that will occur over the same timeframe. The Township with its other 25% of development which was well planned with smaller less intrusive developments would result in lower tax increases and debt in the longer term. I will repeat, “building a new City the size of Orillia in farmers fields is a greatly flawed concept” Unfortunately you and I as the taxpayer will all be paying for it.

The year 2021 is a year of uncertainty and will require all of us to dig deep to recover from the past year. Unfortunately, this menacing pandemic is not behind us by any means and I don’t expect any reasonable normality in our day to day until the middle of 2022. So please do the three things that do prevent the spread. Wear a mask, sanitize and wash your hands and stay six feet from anyone outside your immediate circle. God bless us all as we struggle through the event of our lifetime.

Again, please remember these are my thoughts and I am not asking you to agree. I respect your freedom of expression and encourage you to SPEAK UP, before that freedom is taken from us!!

Bill served as Mayor of Springwater and a County of Simcoe Councillor from 2014 to 2018 and has taught business at the college level for over 15 years.

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