Debbie Sherwood making second bid for Town Council seat

October 12, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Baker

After spending close to 40 years playing the political game as a municipal staffer, Debbie Sherwood believes she has all the tools necessary to make an effective councillor in Orangeville.

In what is her second time running for office in the community, Ms. Sherwood hopes to go one step better than she did in 2014, when she finished sixth with 2,512 votes – 373 shy of a council berth. Discussing that last election with the Citizen, Debbie admitted it hurt to secure the position of first runner-up, but said simply that she was using that to fuel her desire to win a seat amongst what has shaped up to be an impressive group of candidates. 

“Orangeville has been my home since 1979 – I absolutely love it here. But, over the past four years we’ve seen such a decline within council chambers,” Ms. Sherwood said. “I have been very displeased with the last council and all the dysfunction. I don’t think a lot has been accomplished since 2014. If elected, I really feel I could bring a lot of good insight and instill positive change in our community at the council level.”

During her lengthy career working for the Town of Orangeville, Debbie served as a certified municipal tax professional. Much of her time was spent dealing with people in the community who were having issues keeping up with their tax bill. As such, she feels that makes her the most qualified candidate to truly try and tackle the community’s issue with “out of control” taxes.

“That was one of the hardest things about my career – listening to people with high tax bills and the financial hardships they were going through. I worked with thousands of people over the years coming up with payment plans that worked for them, while also benefitting the municipality,” Ms. Sherwood said. “It was all about listening, understanding, negotiating and having empathy – that’s what I can bring to the town.”

It is perhaps fitting, and not at all surprising, then to learn that Debbie’s number one priority should she be elected is, in her own words, re-establishing a sense of fiscal responsibility at town hall. She has watched on in horror over the years as council has approved tax increase after tax increase.

Looking closely at some of the numbers, Ms. Sherwood criticized this current council for one of its most recent decisions – the hiring of eight new full-time firefighters to give the community 24-hour immediate service. Her issue wasn’t with the hiring, but with the way this council funded the $800,000 expense.

“If you look closely at what council did in its 2018 budget, it put $300,000 aside in the operating budget to pay the salaries of the new firefighters and then took $500,000 from municipal reserves – that is so wrong,” Ms. Sherwood said. “This council has basically told the next council they have to find an additional $500,000 in funding every year to pay for these firefighters, because we can’t just draw from reserves year after year.”

She added, “With the whole $800,000 coming into the annual budget, we know already that we’re likely going to have a one or two percent (tax) increase because of what this council has done. And that’s without looking at or considering any other items.”

She also took exception to the Town’s five-year plan, which calls for a 20 percent increase in its operating budget by 2022.

“That’s a major concern for me. I have a real issue with that,” she said. “To have a plan is great, but 20 percent increase over that time is completely unrealistic. It’s not acceptable. I think there are places where we can find either additional revenue sources or make hard decisions on municipal services.”

Which brings us to policing. While she admits she “loves” the Orangeville Police Service, she stated she would have to “think with her head and not her heart” if the municipality was able to save more than $4 million a year by adopting the OPP. As many other candidates have suggested, Ms. Sherwood would like an independent review to be carried out by a third-party consultant to determine, once and for all, if transitioning to the provincial police would be truly beneficial.

Regarding other hot-button issues in town, the candidate called for the local railway line to be either decommissioned or sold.

“At the time, it may have seemed like a good decision to purchase the line, but we have experienced tremendous losses and it has become a real strain on our taxpayers,” she said. “Right now we’re throwing down $500,000 a year for this line – it’s just not financially feasible to continue running.”

Debbie would like to see the town maintain its two libraries, while she acknowledged funding a new fire hall – an $8 million expense slated for 2020 – would be a “want rather than a need” and, as such, council should plan for the expense. She said she was in favour of growth, but only because it’s mandated by the provincial government. An important side task of hers, should she get elected, would be attracting new businesses to town to help lessen the tax burden on residents.

“Right now 78 percent of our budget is paid for by the town’s residential tax base, with only 22 percent coming by way of multi-residential, commercial and industrial classes,” Ms. Sherwood said. “Let’s promote our town and bring more small businesses here. We need to provide more opportunities for people to open businesses and live here. We need to help make that percentage a little more sustainable moving forward.”

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