Councillor candidates weigh in on how the $32 million from railway assets sale should be spent

October 13, 2022   ·   0 Comments

By Sam Odrowski

Orangeville’s $32 million sale of railway assets has left many residents wondering how it might be spent by a new council.

With the municipal election only weeks away, slated for Oct. 24, the Citizen asked local councillor candidates how they would spend the money. 

These were their responses:

Debbie Sherwood

“The $32 million dollars recently returned by the sale of the rail lands are currently sitting in reserves making interest. It has always been my position that since the tax payers of Orangeville have paid over $10 million in property taxes over the last 20 years, that money is owed back to the Orangeville taxpayers,” Sherwood said.

“With public engagement we need to make good solid decisions on how to best use those funds. I am not going to approve just spending it up on wants but will make sure that it is used to the benefit of everyone. It should remain in investments until decisions can be made by the public. I would like to see some of the annual interest made be applied towards reducing property taxes over the next 10-20 years as a form of pay back and the balance used strategically for projects.”

Rick Stevens

Stevens said, “This is one of the most important decisions facing the new Orangeville Town Council next term. If I am elected, I will ask for the community’s input and form a committee that I would like to be on with our citizens, made up of different groups with different ideas.”

He added that this would be the only fair way to move forward.

Stevens said he’s against using the money to cover property taxes but parks and recreation is an area it should be used on, as outdoor parks need improvement and recreation facilities need repair.

“I would love the opportunity to build an indoor facility with a turf field, soccer, cricket, baseball, football and lacrosse could all use it along with inside lawn bowling, pickle ball, volleyball, basketball and possibly a tennis court,” said Stevens.

He noted that this would depend on the cost but is on his wish list for residents both young and old.

Joe Andrews

“With the $32 million financial windfall from the sale of the Orangeville Railway Lands, this is where the Orangeville taxpayer can in fact provide direction and input. I would like in the new term of council to hold a public consultation to educate the people of Orangeville how this windfall came about and investigate the best way to disperse and utilize these funds,” said Andrews. “Currently the funds are invested ensuring additional financial growth before it is decided where to redirect a portion of these taxpayer dollars. In my opinion, it is critical to address a possible recreation project, an affordable housing initiative or something innovative that would become a town legacy piece for generations to enjoy. Let the people of Orangeville decide the best way to spend this money.”

Peggy Bond

“I would pay down the town debt first. According to the 2022 budget, our 2023 budgeted debt principal payments is $2.8 million and debt interest payment is $1.3 million,” said Bond.

“In 2031 the total is projected to be $3 million with $1.2 million of that being interest. That is $10 million dollars spent over 8 years on just the interest to hold our Town’s debt. A contribution of even half of the $32 million from the rail land sale would save significant dollars over time. With the leftover money, I would suggest we have input from the community members on how to use this money. Some possibilities; 

“1. Zero per cent tax increase which would give every resident a financial break from the increasing prices of everything else in the world today.

“2. Free entry into the walking track for Seniors and a free once-per-week exercise class in the winter to increase mobility, socialization and improve health.”

Grant Spence

“A portion of the money should be invested – 20-25 per cent of it would be ample,” said Spence.

“Citizens of Orangeville also have a right to voice their ideas and opinion here.”

He noted more resources should be dedicated to parks and recreation, which is “lagging in

its development.”

“[The] town could consider building a facility for training programs dedicated to youth/high school students and potential employees, as they make up the majority of part-time workers in our summer months,” said Spence. “A year-round indoor/outdoor pool, a proper outdoor skating rink, or a year-round bike/skate park, are all things I have heard the people of this town ask for.”

Developing these options would provide youth with better recreation opportunities, he said.

Spence added that with successful events such as the Blues and Jazz Festival, Ribfest, and a provincial youth baseball tournament, there’s demand for a multi-purpose park and venue for live music or recreation to accommodate the municipality’s growth.

James Jackson

“We have a huge housing issue,” said Jackson. “One of my ideas is to look into a group business venture with all levels of government and any other interested parties for a low-income housing/senior complex.”

A cultural centre and improvements to Tony Rose would also be considered.

Jackson said a “one-time tax return” is squandering the money but he will work hard to have zero or minimal tax increases for Orangeville.

He added, with a “world-wide recession looming” and the cost of everything increasing, the town can’t be frivolous with the money and 75 per cent of it should be held onto to cover any unexpected cost increases for capital projects.

“If we leave it in a high interest rate account, we could use the $1.6 million it would earn in interest to do those capital projects and help offset tax increases,” Jackson said. “The ideas are endless but we cannot be fools with it.”

Tess Prendergast

“The 32 million belongs to the residents of Orangeville, the community will dictate, through conversation, debate, town hall meeting, etc., on the future use of these funds. I will support the collective vision of residents, whether it be to continue investing the proceeds and use the interest to pay for capital projects and infrastructure maintenance, invest in a large-scale recreation complex, seniors housing development, community legacy project or a mix of both,” said Prendergast.

“The new Council will be tasked with soliciting input from residents before embarking on large scale projects. I support exploring new recreational facilities that benefit everyone, housing for seniors/young people, or other large community legacy projects as directed by the collective vision of the community. All the while, the proceeds from the Orangeville Rail Yard will remain invested, accruing interest. We do not need to rush to a decision – council should take a sensible, measured approach when discussing this issue and allocating the funds.”

Andy Macintosh

“This money is currently sitting in a high interest account, I don’t see a rush to move it yet. I believe the new council needs to take a good hard look at our immediate needs, is there something that needs repair, or something the town requires and would have to borrow money for? Of course, the citizens must be involved, after all it is their money that has been taken away – $450,000 a year for the last 20 years,” Macintosh said. “One of the suggestions I have heard is to use it to lower the tax rate, I strongly disagree with this. The town’s last tax increase was 0.83 per cent and the year before 0.97 per cent – you can’t get much lower than that, and what happens when the money runs out after being kept artificially low? You would be in for a very large increase, so no.”

Ximena Butko

Butko said,“One of the most important responsibilities of our local council is making sure that we are responsible and forward thinking when putting together a budget. A focus on capital improvements or infrastructure, paying down liabilities, building reserves to improve resiliency, the growing demand for affordable and attainable housing, the support of new recreational amenities and understanding firsthand the issues the residents of Orangeville face, while considering their suggestions and ideas, are a few of the ways we could work together in the planning of this fortunate windfall our wonderful town has acquired.”

She added, “Overall, helping our town to provide fiscally responsible and efficient services will be my guiding principle.”

Nick Garisto

“For the time being I would like to hold public town meetings to find out from the taxpayers where they would like to see where the money should be spent,” said Garisto

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