Familiar Opponents Raise Budget Concerns
By Kirk Winter
If you are a municipal politician or employee in the City of Kawartha Lakes, there is a pretty good chance that you know Bill Denby and Peter Weygang.
Both individuals have dabbled in municipal politics in the past, and both still make their presence felt in the corridors of power on Francis Street.
Denby, President of the Kawartha Lakes Tax Payer Association and Weygang, Secretary of Citizens for Direct Democracy, were the only two members of the general public to register their concerns with this year’s budget process. Denby presented his concerns in person, while Weygang submitted a written brief.
Denby stated in his deputation that he was pleased to see cuts being made to the CKL budget, and significant amounts of money being moved into City reserve funds. He shared that there are many ratepayers in the City on fixed incomes who cannot afford the currently proposed 3.5 percent tax increase. Denby believed that one easy area for savings would be a policy change as to how often City vehicles were being replaced, with fleet equipment being kept longer. He challenged Council to bring in a budget at no more than a 1 percent increase.
Denby believes that there are many other areas in the City budget that could be cut to achieve that goal. His organization’s website on Kijiji itemizes the areas where they would like to see changes, including:
Cancel construction of the new Mariposa Fire Hall at the cost of $1.9 million. Denby accuses the Fire Chief of “empire building.”
Cancel the CKL rebranding project.
Reallocate the money currently for the Bobcaygeon Beach project to a new EMS building that would “benefit all taxpayers.”
The end of hiring more full-time unionized workers as jobs become available. His group suggests all new hires to be contract only.
Denby’s website states that CKL funds “should be spent on roads, bridges, arenas and other essential services only.”
Denby and his Taxpayer Association also fervently believe that “senior staff and their wish lists are at fault” for the City’s spiralling debt and that Council has, in essence, given control of the City over to an unelected staff.
Denby promises that he will be present for the last two days of budget debate on February 19 and 20.
Peter Weygang submitted his concerns to Council in the form of a seven-page brief.
Weygang wants a more simplified budgeting process, and more Council oversight about staff decisions. Weygang believes that debt repayment should become the priority of Council and until the debt is paid all future budgets should reflect that priority.
Weygang’s brief asked the following questions of Council and Staff:
Why are user charges, licenses and fines “rising at rates that local citizenry can no longer afford?” Weygang was particularly concerned about the fines levied on “hard pressed citizens” for failure to pay their taxes on time.
Why is the City spending so much money on contracted out services if the City has truly hired the appropriately qualified staff with the correct qualifications?
Why does the CKL continue to support the Kawartha Lakes Conservation Authority to the tune of $1.6 million when there is “no quantifiable evidence that water quality has improved or that fish populations have increased?”
Why are fleet purchases being made before “(vehicles) have completely exhausted their useful lives?”
What exactly is the IT department doing with their $1.8 million personnel budget?
Why does the Library Department have “one full-time supervisory staff person for every two part-time real workers”, and why does the City continue to pursue the plans for a relocation of the Bobcaygeon Library when, according to Weygang, citizens “have rejected that idea?”
Why is no one focusing on the reduction of City staff, particularly those who earn over $80,000 a year when staffing is the single largest cost for the City?
Weygang concluded by suggesting that the City adopt an idea put forward by defeated Mayoral candidate Gord James that “committees of citizens sit as oversight controllers for all (City) departments.”
The deputations from Mr. Denby and Mr. Weygang were accepted by Council, and one wonders if any of the points made by either individual will raise their heads during the deliberations on February 19 and 20? Only time will tell.