As staff head into budget preparation season, I remind myself that we are a service organization funded primarily by property taxes. Yes, we do sometimes receive grants from other levels of government who get their tax dollars in other ways. With the exception of infrastructure – roads, bridges, facilities and the like – our role at the School Board, the Region and the Township is to provide the services needed by our residents. The School Board mandate aside, many Regional and Township services and service levels are left to the discretion of politicians.
Issues vary depending upon an individual’s current situation. No one likes to drive on roads full of potholes. Yet some people don’t drive at all, or drive very little. Housing is expensive. Some people need a hand-up.
Dealing with issues at the root cause can save money down the road, but might mean deferring projects or services that would be a priority for someone else.
Climate change could ultimately and significantly change life on planet Earth. How much do we allocate to green initiatives? Do we have the funds to repair our infrastructure – and do we have the staff to do the work?
Recreation facilities and programs are key to our wellbeing and to curbing some of the social issues that are prevalent around the world. How much are residents willing to support those initiatives?
Approximately half of our operating budget is for salaries. How many people do we need to provide an appropriate level of service, and at what cost? Remember, only about a quarter of your property taxes come to the Township; about a quarter to the School Boards; and roughly half to the Region.
I can tell you that Woolwich’s property taxes are the lowest compared to our Regional counterparts and adjacent municipalities. I can also tell you that the cost of staff salaries per capita in Woolwich is among the lowest, especially when compared to similarly sized municipalities. While that can mean we are well-managed, my fear is that it also positions us to reduce service standards as our Township population and expectations continue to grow.
Balancing financial and service expectations will continue to be a challenge for Council and staff. Our new organizational structure should provide for better service as we grow, but appropriate and well-trained staff are key to a strong municipality.
May we continue to be strong and vibrant.