Council kills finance committee, favouring a new budget process

June 2, 2016   ·   0 Comments

Orangeville Council abolished its finance and administrative committee Monday night, abandoning a process that has been a part of Council’s budget deliberations for quite some time.

The significant change follows two years in which budget debates have been presided over by Councillor Nick Garisto as committee chair. In the position he was the lead councillor for all things related to the budget process – running the meetings, leading strategic initiatives, and bringing forth his own ideas on how to best allocate annual tax dollars.

The motion to dissolve the finance committee was brought forth by councillor Sylvia Bradley, who felt budget deliberations would be more efficient if they were conducted in regular council sessions and chaired by the Mayor.

Mayor Jeremy Williams did not agree, contending that the committee sessions were “less rigid” than council meetings. The Mayor felt the committee allowed for “more fluid” conversation.

Although Mayor Williams conceded that  the finance committee sessions were more “adversarial in nature”, he felt it was an efficient and worthwhile process. He challenged Councillor Bradley for going after “one committee,” and noted that she had previously chaired the finance committee.

“This speaks to your desire to have that committee. You never wanted to get rid of the finance committee previously.”

The Mayor termed the Bradley motion “mean-spirited” and challenged her to give strong reasons as to why she wanted to change a process that has been effective.

Councillor Bradley was not apologetic in her response to the Mayor. “I do not appreciate the implication that (my motion) is mean spirited. Other communities deliberate budgets with their council or they have a finance committee made up of different people.”

She went on to note that while her current portfolio on town council is Public Works, “I do not chair Public Works”.

Councillor Don Kidd weighed in, commenting that “the finance process has not run along very smoothly. In year one, council settled the budget May 4th. This year the budget was settled in March. These are too late. I would like to try the council approach to see if we can move things along a little smoother. The last two budgets were not a smooth period.”

Mayor Williams disagreed. “I thought we did alright.”

Having personally covered many of these budget sessions, I think the meetings could easily be described as acrimonious. In fact, in early March Deputy Mayor Warren Maycock called the proceedings a “gong show.”

Councillor Garisto was visibly annoyed.

“I disagree with everything being said. It would take away public input. Just imagine with all of these items in the budget how long it will take. It will take months (to settle the budget)!”

Suggesting that abolishing the committee would “kill the process,” he added angrily: “I find it pretty interesting that this is coming at this stage in this council. I don’t appreciate it. This is a direct attack on the chair of finance (referring to himself).”

His anger peaking, he posed rhetorically: “What chair do I have once this is dissolved? What kind of chair am I?”

Councillor Bradley assured him that he would still have a vibrant role within council and the budget process. “You are the chair of any other active committees. You still hold the portfolio of finance. We have excellent public input. Everyone is heard if they want to be heard. We need to look at doing things differently and more efficiently.”

There was further discussion on what other councils do during their budget processes. Deputy Mayor Maycock noted that “the County has started their budget deliberations in November of the prior year for quite some time. The process is usually wrapped up by mid-December.

“The Town  should start in the fall. It is better for getting annual tenders out.”

Councillor Gail Campbell agreed. “The budget is the most important thing we do. We should have a time limit for passing the budget.”

A Garisto motion to dissolve other committees such as the committee of the whole, public works and recreation was defeated, with all council members but the mayor in opposition.

In the end, the Bradley motion to dissolve the finance committee passed, all voting in favor except for Mayor Williams and Councillor Garisto.

The debate was perhaps the most spirited part of the evening. The new process will be in place for the 2017 budget deliberations.

Written by Todd Taylor

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