Good Evening. My name is Mike Webb and I am commenting on the Township’s 2019 budget on behalf of the Muskoka Ratepayers’ Association.

Budget deliberations are difficult, and the Ratepayers’ would like to congratulate Township staff, committee and particularly Treasurer Shannon Johnson, on the budget so far.

Thanks to Shannon, the budget was straight forward and easily understood.

I personally found the Jan 22nd overhead presentation very enlightening.

For several years the MRA has been concerned about the declining state of the Township’s Reserves…currently running significantly less than the Provincial average. Reserves are like Savings Accounts – they are important and necessary to address unexpected future expenditures.

We understand that some of the Township’s infrastructure is badly in need of repair or replacement. Repairs and replacements are expensive, and the Township must build Reserves, or budget to pay for them.

Further to this – and as a caution – the MRA believes that removing something from the Ten-Year Capital Forecast is a mistake. If these funds are not provided in the budget, they will likely be taken from Reserves later.

The Ten-Year Capital Forecast is a sliding scale and is in a constant state of flux and change. Items will be added and removed on an on-going basis.

The MRA understands the need for the 5% dedicated capital levy added to the operating levy in 2019 for the third year.

A couple of years ago, our Township surveyed citizens about their satisfaction with the service levels being provided. Most respondents were satisfied, and they did not want services cut to save dollars. We believe the Township could show even better results by providing increased service levels. Our citizens could then report that they are more than satisfied.

As you make your budget deliberations, please keep our quality of life in mind and to help grow the Township’s year-round demographic. Maybe we need a year-round swimming pool or a community theatre. Maybe the Township needs to offer more programs at a few of our community centres.

Our roads, parks, libraries, beaches, arenas, fire department, by-law enforcement and responsiveness of government all need sustainable funding.

You can cut expenditures to the bone to make it look like you are good money managers but – does anyone want to live with that type of austerity? We look to local government for leadership and to build a community that all of us are proud to live in. Council needs to be frugal, but not penny wise and dollar foolish.

We are deeply distressed to see the legal budget skyrocketing. We understand that there is a pending suit involving the Legacy project which helps explain this. We acknowledge that the suit was brought on because of previous council actions and not yours. This suit may, or may not succeed…however, we feel it would be wise to start including a reserve to cover any potential payout.

The Muskoka Ratepayers’ is watching the budget of the fire department very closely and we believe that this department is an “essential service”.

Their equipment is expensive but the MRA believes that they should have the current up-to-date equipment they require to protect us.

This should include the overdue “aerial truck” recommended by our former Fire Chief. A fire at quite a few existing buildings in Muskoka Lakes could not be currently, safely fought.

Removing essential equipment such as Marine 1 from the Ten-Year capital forecast is short sighted as Marine 1 at Foot’s Bay will need to be replaced at some point regardless if it is, or is not, in the budget. We are quite sure the Township does not intend to leave Lake Joseph without a fire-boat to protect island properties or transport sick and injured taxpayers to land-based Paramedic ambulances.

Also, in closing, I want to mention the exceptional good work being done by the Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce. Later this year Muskoka will play host to the prestigious “Annual Meeting and Policy Convention” of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. The meeting will be headquartered at the JW Marriott Hotel in Muskoka Lakes. Getting this important group to meet in our Township, will be very valuable to our business community.

Many of you mentioned the importance of supporting year-round economy in the Township during your election campaigns. The Chamber is an important and essential driver of this economy for us. We strongly urge Council to support the Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce by favourably acting on their funding request.

On behalf of the membership of the Muskoka Ratepayers’ Association, we thank you for your service and dedication to our community.

We understand that this budget is a moving target and look forward to the next draft.

Thank you.

There were several other presentations or comments on the proposed budget. In particular, the Muskoka Lakes Associatrion presented, as did the former Mayor of the Township – Don Furniss – his presentation may be found at Budget Presentation to Council – Don Furniss