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Williams’ bid for ‘Zero Pledge’ attacked by Adams, 2 candidates

October 22, 2014   ·   1 Comments

By Tabitha Wells – A challenge made by Mayoral-hopeful Councillor Jeremy Williams for all council candidates to join his ‘Zero Pledge’ has been drawing both vocal support and opposition from candidates.

The pledge, to vote for a zero percent increase on the 2015 Orangeville budget, singles out Mayor Rob Adams and  Deputy Mayor Warren Maycock as being the leading cause in both the town’s financial situation, as well as creating the need for the pledge.

While Mr. Williams has invited other candidates to take the Pledge, he has made it clear that it is not about an endorsement between candidates.

“It means they, like me, are taking the problem seriously and intend to act to bring Orangeville’s budget under control,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

Three candidates have publicly declared their commitment to the pledge, including Deputy Mayor candidate Kim Reid, and Councillor candidates Brad Fournier-Simoes and Debbie Sherwood.

Councillor Williams also indicated via Facebook that two other candidates have expressed a desire to vote for a zero increase in the 2015 budget but are hesitant to publicly declare themselves at this point. He added that he has heard from several candidates who have stated they will only support an increased budget as well.

Mayor Rob Adams spoke out against the pledge, suggesting that the concept  is unrealistic, and seemed to be a last foray to gain votes for Mr. Williams’ campaign.

“It’s a promise that no-one may be able to keep as no-one knows what will happen in the future,” said Mayor Adams. “Economies change, priorities change; one bad winter and plowing and road repair costs can increase dramatically as they did this past year.”

He said Town’s $30-million operating budget takes months of work and review before the end can be achieved, and that the complexity of decision-making required to arrive at a final Budget make it impossible for someone to make that decision in advance.

“To pretend that it’s all that simple shows a lack of experience and understanding,” said Mayor Adams.

“The Mayor is the leader of council and must be an experienced manager of people, organizations and budgets. There is no time for learning on the job.”

According to the Mayor, someone in his position must include and listen to town staff, Council and residents throughout the budgets process.

“Common sense dictates that Zero can’t be done without significant service cuts,” he said. “Consequently, it will cause a significant increase in the following year.”

Councillor candidates Alex Buchanan and Margo Young have also brought the pledge under fire, calling the campaign a political ploy.

“This is a political ploy that I will not entertain,” said Ms. Young on her Facebook page Wednesday morning. “I am being honest about not making a promise I may not be able to keep.  This is utter nonsense.”

She added that she cannot see any candidate in their right mind actually proposing that they would vote only for an increase in taxes, but that making a promise on something one may not able to keep is equally as ludicrous an idea.

“Of course no-one wants an increase in our taxes and budgets,” she said. “How can you make a promise that you may not be able to keep? You don’t have all the information to make such a promise and there are too many variables.”

But Councillor Williams doesn’t feel that is a valid issue. He says the plan is to prevent any increase above the $49.6 million budget, inclusive of waterworks and capital spending, for 2014.

“That’s a lot of tax and represents close to a massive increase from the 2010 budget,” he said. “I have challenged those running for council to keep our budget at current levels. I am hopeful that years 2 and 3 can see a hold or minor reduction.”

He added that he realizes eventually inflation will catch up with a flat-line budget and force it to increase, but that he believes we have a ways to go before that happens.

“I’m not promising no increase next year, I’m saying that I will not support any increase,” he said. “What the others choose to do is up to them. I’m one of seven. I’m hopeful that by making a strong stand, others will follow me.”

According to Alex Buchanan, a zero-increase vote, if passed, could open up a can of worms that the town, and the Council passing it, might not be prepared for.

“This smells like desperation if you ask me,” said Mr. Buchanan on Facebook yesterday. “A tax freeze can cause stagnation for infrastructure projects, and for a guy who wants more businesses here that sounds counter-productive.”

He added that he believes Council should be focusing on spending smarter, not stopping it all together.

“I don’t know anyone who runs a small business and says ‘we won’t spend money to make money’ unless they are running a business poorly.”

But Councillor Williams said Wednesday a vote of zero increase is not the same as having zero budget and no taxes. “This is not about zero taxes or a zero dollar budget, it is just that I will not support any increases in the budget for 2015,” he said. “The pledge is to ask who else wants to join me in working toward this goal. I’m not concerned about whether they are Rob supporters or my supporters; it’s about getting a like-minded team together. If you don’t try, you’re never going to get there.”

Ms. Young still feels however that making this pledge is not in the best interests of Orangeville residents, and will put town representatives in a bad light if something unpredictable were to arise that would force an increase.

“I do not feel that this challenge by Jeremy Williams to freeze taxes is appropriate,” said Ms. Young. “My former boss and federal MP (Murray Calder) told me I should not make promises I can’t keep, and I don’t know at this time that I could keep that promise. This is a political ploy that I will not accept. I have a plan that is realistic that I intend to bring to the table, to make property taxes a priority.”

Mayor Adams also stated he could not support a pledge like the one proposed, but his battle is still to try to prevent an increase in property taxes and budgets.

“I will never make a promise to residents that I cannot guarantee I can keep,” he said. “I understand that many people are still suffering from the recession and that no-one wants an increase in property taxes. I am prepared to continue to work hard to hold the line on taxes and fight for cuts as I did for every budget last term.”

Despite the criticism, Councillor Williams stands firm with his pledge, and added that he has no concerns about keeping his promise, as he will vote against any increase.

“At this point, we have to leave it up to the voters,” he said. “Let them choose who they believe is taking the stand, and who they feel will do the best job.”

         

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Readers Comments (1)

  1. debbiesherwood says:

    I wish to clarify that my stand on tax increases are like I stated in my literature I will not support a budget increase more than the rate of inflation. I realize it can be difficult to commit to zero without services being cut, affecting our infrastructure, cutting reserves and reducing our debt. As I stated to Mr. Williams, I look forward to reviewing the budget and will make sure sound decisions are based on the best interest to the whole community. Zero may be do-able taking into account assessment growth as well, but I would like to publicly say I can’t promise zero until I review all the facts.


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