My Story

After returning to my hometown after a 50 year absence, I was stunned at what i found. What happened to the thriving small town I remembered? The name-brand main street stores were replaced by discount shops and the bustling sidewalks were largely empty with a few small groups of homeless huddling in the shelter of store entrances, like they were waiting for a bus. Then there were the homeless encampments in city treed areas and parks.

Even more shocking was the person I had to walk around, during an early morning walk, who was huddled in a sleeping bag on the sidewalk. I never thought I would see the day that people were sleeping on Owen Sound streets. How can Council allocate money to endless feasibility studies aimed at building a new $30 million Art Centre, while we have people sleeping on our streets?  

This Needs to Change!


Ten Steps Council Must Take to
put Owen Sound on the Road to Recovery


      
Ten Point Scoring System
Challenge
Score Card

 1.  Five (5) Year Financial Plan:      Develop a five (5) year financial plan with the goal of reducing taxes by 2% per year until Owen Sound's taxes and expenses are relatively equal to similarly sized municipalities. This should include a Change Management Plan and a Communication Plan to ensure city staff remains engaged and focused on restraint.

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 2.  Budget Vetting:     Modify the job descriptions for the city manager and all senior staff to explicitly include the scrutiny and approval of all budgets submitted by their direct reports with a view to ensuring that the need for any requested increase is well documented and does not exceed the rate of annual inflation.

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 3.  Change the Budget Process:   Roll out a Zero-Based Budgeting process. Instead of new budgets developed using the past year's budget as baseline. Each new budget is built based on the assigned activities for the year. Each and every expense must be fully justified. You can review this process here:  Zero Based Budgeting (ZBB).

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 4.  Fully Burdened Cost Centers:      Council must introduce Fully Burdened Cost Centers. Council and taxpayers deserve to see all costs associated with each department which includes an allocation of all support services such as IT, HR, Finance, Building Maintenance and most importantly the amortization expense for all capital expenditures for each department or cost center.

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 5.  Restrict Budget Transfers:    Enforce the concept of Restricted Funds and provide clear rules to eliminate the ability for budget managers to use funds on activities other than the reasons the funds were appropriated. For example, if Transit appropriates funds to cover the bus contract costs, as it did this year, the budget manager cannot use these funds for anything other than the bus contract.

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 6.  Budget Committee:    Action Scott Greig’s idea for establishing a Budget Committee with the authority to send back draft budgets for reevaluation. Council needs to tap into the community and encourage seasoned business professionals to volunteer for this committee. Ideally membership should consist of two councilors and three Owen Sound residents with knowledge and experience in business and financial management.

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 7.  Learn from the Mistakes of Past Councils:       Council needs to conduct financial audits of Transportation Services and the Tom Thompson Art Gallery with a view to identify the sources of a 79.9% increase in the transportation budget over 9 years and a 77.3% increase in the Art Gallery budget over four years.  Learning why these extreme increases happened and what the council of the day could have done to prevent them will assist the new council to identify the early signs of similar problems. Study the mistakes of the past so not to repeat them in the future.

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 8.  Administrative Accountability:        The new council must hold the City Manager Accountable. It is his responsibility to manage city expenditures in a cost-effective and financially responsible manner. It is also his job to ensure that draft budgets are adequately challenged and revised on their way to the council table. He must personally complete a detailed review of each draft budget when they make their way to his desk to ensure that each requested increase is fully supported with documentation and does not exceed the rate of inflation. This Budget Year we saw the City Manager request a 71.9% increase to his budget at a time when city growth has been virtually stagnant for many years. He should be setting an example of “restraint” not “extravagance”.

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 9.  Transparency is Essential for Recovery:       The new council must improve transparency at city hall by including an FTE spreadsheet, and a spreadsheet of current contracts, broken down by department with the annual financial statements. The FTE Spreadsheet should include the previous year’s data so residents can see the changes in the workforce year to year. In addition Council must direct the city’s auditing firm to include statements of operations for each department, in its annual report and include descriptions of all expenses listed under titles of "Contracting" and "Legal and Contracting".

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 10. Listen to the People:       Residents have been very vocal in identifying two major concerns, high taxes and those among us without housing. Therefore council must earmark annual savings for tax reductions and increased support for Owen Sound's homeless.

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  0 = Not Started             1 to 9 Partially Completed              10 = Fully Completed

 


If Council Takes all of The Above Steps
They will put Owen Sound on the Road to Recovery


 

Click on the icons below to take a quick look at how Owen Sound compares to its neighbours.
COMMERCIAL TAXES RESIDENTIAL TAXES RATE COMPARISON TAX COMPARISON INCOME COMPARISON

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