Monday, February 29, 2016

Reflections on Market Square

Thank you to all who have provided input on Market Square.
Here is a link to the proposals put forward to the selection committee.
The online form to submit your input closes at midnight.
Here are two links to Rob Ritz’s plan.
I realize including Rob Ritz’s plan will be disappointing for some. Whether
the selection committee includes it in their review of proposals, it is very much
under consideration by many in our community. My hope is that we can look at the strengths put forward in each proposal
and hear the concerns raised. As I said earlier this week, m hope is that we
remember we are neighbours in a community . The greatest tragedy in this
endeavour would be for us to gain a meeting space but not want to meet.
For what it's worth, a few of my thoughts:
I appreciate the desire for movement on this issue but support the plan for
the core - transit, Cooper Site, parking and Market Square. These need to be
borne in the decision-making of each one.
Skating rink. If we are going to add a skating rink in the core, I would prefer
it be added to the Cooper site in conjunction with a community hub. That being
said, if we need outdoor rinks, I wonder if using sites like Lakeside Drive and/or
other neighbourhood parks might be more effective given their locations.
Sightlines. When I picture events at Market Square, I see visibility for the
audience as a frequent issue. I hope this is kept in mind when designing the
space so that as many people as possible will be able to fully participate by
being able to witness the proceedings.
Operating costs. As plans are made, my hope is that both the operating and
capital costs will be factored in to the final decision. The mention of additional
amenties being required as well as the ongoing discussion around the potential
cinema project at City Hall makes me wonder if the Cooper Site were to become
a community hub, if some offices currently located in City Hall might be better
suited to such a space thereby potentially addressing such a concern.
Transit and parking. I recognize many see transit and parking as non-issues,
I disagree. These help connect many and need to be considered in an overall plan.
My comments are reflective of hundreds of comments and
conversations over the past few years. My hope is that all
who are invested in the decisions to be made on this issue
are able to hear not only the comments raised in the process but appreciate the underlying needs they speak to so that we can come together as a community that strives to create inclusive solutions.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Musings by Howard Famme on Proposed 2016 Budget

2016 Budget Musings

I recently reviewed the audited financial statements for the City of Stratford.

The present council is to be congratulated for the excellent results over the last 4 years wherein the annual surplus for years 2012 - 2014 was  .8 M. , 11.4 M and 3.3 M respectively with an accumulated surplus at December 31, 2014 of 218.6 M.  This has also resulted in reductions of net debt, particularly long-term debenture debt from 86.3M down to 71.1 M being basically 5 M repayment per year.

I am very concerned when I read about budget increases to taxation of 4.1% with some councillors saying that they would be happy with an increase of 3.5%.  Such increases in property taxes are unacceptable.  Inflation in the most recent month has only been at 1.4% annually.

Our present financial situation has arrived at the lofty surpluses because we are at present paying down debenture debt from the past of 5M per annum, purchasing new capital assets of 10 M per annum and building up total reserves for the future of 4 M over the last 4 years.  The present taxpayers are funding 3 generations of costs.

This system is particularly hard on the large number of seniors who are living on fixed incomes.  These people have worked hard all their lives, they have paid taxes all their lives and they should expect to have security to enjoy their homes in their advancing years.  In spite of  what we’re told at times, taxes are high in Stratford.  My annual bill of $7,600 compares to friends with similar properties in Barrie of $6,300 and Toronto of $5,600.

I challenge council to bring in a budget at a 0 tax increase.  Mayor Mathieson (who is now in a record 13th consecutive year as mayor)  brought in a budget with an actual tax reduction in his first year as mayor.

We will hear the argument from management that this is not sustainable.  This is a myth as Stratford has seen a tremendous increase in new assessment which will add an additional $700,000 + to the taxation revenue in 2016.  This growth is in full swing and will sustain future increases in expenditures.  At the same time we need less municipal government, not more.

Please hold the line on taxes in Stratford so all can continue to enjoy the tremendous attributes of this great city.

Howard Famme