I said a few months ago the fall term would be busy, and so far, it has to go down as one of the busiest in recent memory. Among the major issues we’re tacking:
- Budget – Barrie has to get it’s fiscal house in order. Although this Council has cut the capital budget by 20% in two years, and cut new spending by much more than that, more needs to be done. Tough decisions to come on the 2013 budget. Council and senior City staff have already taken a voluntary pay freeze, but this is just a tiny slice of what needs to be done. We actually need to spend more fixing roads and pipes, and much less on new buildings and new programs. A hint of what’s to come can be seen in the decision to not pursue a Holly Library branch at this time (a shame, but understandable given our fiscal condition). The draft budget proposed to put $2.7M more into the fund for fixing roads and pipes, while making various (relatively minor) service cuts to save money.
Lots more to come on this, but to address one proposal – I strongly suspect Council will NOT proceed with a “special levy”, something which has been floated to pay for new projects such as the improvements to our waterfront. I am hearing many people say that it would be better to delay or not undertake the waterfront improvements until our fiscal situation improves. You be the judge – click here to see the new plan. Decision to come in January, but I suspect we will need to find other ways – our residents are clearly saying they can’t afford optional projects right now.
- A sustainable waste plan. Barrie’s landfill will be full in 2024 if we don’t take action to extend it’s life. It will cost $6.5M to close it, and another $600,000 per year to maintain the closed site, in addition to the huge costs to truck waste elsewhere. We must keep the landfill open as long as possible and the secret there is to encourage more recycling - a lot more. The new strategy includes a proposal for bi-weekly pickup (green, grey, blue bins would still be weekly, and the limit would be 2 bags not 1). This would not only save money but has been proven in other cities to encourage recycling, but remains controversial. Comments welcome! There are many other measures in the plan, which is designed toe xtend the life of the landfill to 2035, saving more than $7M.
- Mid-term refocusing – Council recently held our mid-term update. We have decided to focus on three of our five key priorities for the remainder of the term – specifically: creating jobs and growing the economy, managing growth, and improving our financial condition. The other two priorities – city centre revitalization, and opening up city hall, will continue to be priorities, but Council feels major progress has been made on these objectives. Our central focus will be on jobs, managing growth, and fixing our finances.
- Economic Development – the “Ideas in Motion” plan (click here to read it) is our five-point plan to grow our economy. I’m really excited about this, the plan was built directly from a day-long session with Barrie’s business leaders and lays out specific actions for the next 4 years. Again, comments welcome…
Lots more I could talk about…from casinos to chimineas…check out www.barrie.ca as always for more information on issues of the day as this fast-moving fall term flies by.