I am publishing this blog posting March 9 — and yes, it is once again time to “spring forward” when it comes to time. I have to admit, I find this change hard — as my friend Councillor Butters from Port Colborne would likely suggest, the upcoming days are going to require more coffee than normal 🙂
The past few weeks can be put into the column titled “making progress”. And indeed, progress has been made.
With this update, I am will be discussing:
- Niagara Region Budget (with my comments)
- Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority
- Association of the Municipalities of Ontario
- SouthWestern Integrated Fibre Technology Inc.
- Niagara Entrepreneur of the Year Awards
Niagara Region Budget
All communities in Niagara have been making strides with their budgets, with the Region being no exception. February 28, an overall 3.8 percent increase in property taxes was approved.
The following are notes taken from the Niagara Region website regarding budget 2019 (https://www.niagararegion.ca/news/article.aspx?news=941&t=Niagara+Region+Council+Approves+2019+Budget):
The operating budget for 2019 has been approved with a tax levy of $365.7 million and will provide funding for the daily business of the Niagara Region, its boards and agencies. It will also pay for investments that support economic prosperity, quality of life and help protect our natural environment.
That means Niagara Region can grow its transit service. The 2019 budget includes a separate 1.4 per cent levy for Niagara Regional Transit enhancements. Other strategic initiatives included in the operating budget are:
- Asset Management governance
- Funding for development charge grants
- Emergency management psychological resources
- Enhanced funding for infrastructure renewal
To position Niagara on the best possible course for future success, Regional Council approved a $274 million capital program for 2019 that includes a number of significant projects aimed at facilitating growth and attracting employment, as well as upgrades to critical infrastructure through the Region’s Asset Management Plan.
My take on the Budget
This was the first time I had participated in a Niagara Region budget — mind you, I have had the experience of 18 budgets at the Town of Lincoln, so from that point of view, it was a process I am familiar with.
It was fascinating the viewpoints being brought into the mix.
Generally speaking, most Mayors wanted the budget value to be as low as possible — and I suppose I don’t blame them, as they also had to deal with some pretty significant budget issues within their own municipalities. For example, the budget increase passed in the Town of Lincoln was (for their portion) 7.29%.
From Town of Lincoln website (https://lincoln.ca/budget/2019-budget):
A decision was made (which I was not in favour of, I might add …) to move monies from an already underfunded stabilization account into the budget mix, artificially reducing the budget by a percent. Why was I against this?:
- Doing this simply delays the true cost of programs to our citizens
- Members of Council agreed to new programs (see above)
- These decisions mean funding not just this year, but these are now programs into the future
- So, reducing artificially this year means we get hit automatically with an increase next year
We shall see how this shapes up for 2020.
I do want to thank Councillor Gary Zalepa for the excellent job he did chairing the budget process.
Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA)
Much has been done on this file.
There has been a change in leadership at the NPCA, with the Board hiring on an interim basis Gayle Wood.
There was a pretty good article done on Gayle in the St. Catharines Standard (https://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/news-story/9195471-npca-appoints-conservation-authority-veteran-to-take-the-helm-for-five-months/).
She has also started into reviewing of some of the problem areas that need cleanup at the NPCA. Again, the Standard produced a pretty good article (https://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/news-story/9199330-wood-to-reform-npca-hiring-policies/).
The Board had been and finally completed a thorough review of the NPCA budget and some reductions were put in place to mitigate during this budget cycle. This will be more fully reviewed as the new Board comes in place.
In the next few weeks, I will be attending meetings regarding Governance and the NPCA Foundation.
On a personal level, I have been extended an additional 3 months on the Board. Depending on what is agreed upon by Niagara, Haldimand and Hamilton on composition, I am hoping to continue on this Board for this term.
I also was honoured to attend the NPCA Volunteer Appreciation evening — the work that is done by the volunteers is amazing and their dedication to the environment and environmental causes is truly appreciated.
Association of the Municipalities of Ontario (AMO)
With the major electoral changes this past October 22, Niagara was without representation on the AMO.
I applied for and feel very privileged to have been chosen as a member of the Region and Single Tier Caucus of AMO, with my first meeting scheduled for April.
With formal approval by Regional Council at our next Council meeting, I will be able to continue the work there that I had been doing previously representing Lincoln.
SouthWestern Integrated Fibre Technology Inc. (SWIFT)
Niagara Region Council elected me to their representative on SWIFT — so, you will be asking, what is SWIFT?
From the website (https://swiftnetwork.ca/):
“The SouthWestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) Network is a forward-looking, financially sustainable plan to help the region connect, compete and keep pace in a digital world by building a holistic, ultra-high-speed fibre optic network across the region. Spearheaded by community and businesses leaders across southwestern Ontario, Caledon, and Niagara Region.”
My first meeting with this organization will be later this month.
Entrepreneur of the Year Awards
I had the opportunity to attend the Niagara Entrepreneur of the Year Awards — many Lincoln residents have received honours from this organization over the years, with many attending this year.
George Darte, Regional Councillor for St. Catharines and a long time business person from the Garden City, received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the ceremony. From my working with George, this was indeed well deserved.
I don’t have an official budget for things like promotion — however, I have created the following to help get messaging out:
Please visit these and like or follow.
You can also click here for my Niagara Region website page.
I look forward to bringing you along on this journey.