Budget approved in principle; 2.36 per cent tax increase

The Windsor Star reports:

Amherstburg town council has approved in principle a 2022 budget with an overall tax rate increase of 2.36 per cent. The increase represents an additional property tax of $38.82 per $100,000 of a home’s assessed value.

Highlights of the budget include a climate change adaptation plan, a transit pilot project, addition of a road operator to enhance delivery of road maintenance services, transportation master plan, water/wastewater rate model study, water/wastewater infrastructure master plan, asset management plan update and the return of recreation and tourism programming and events.

Police Costing – The Best Deal?

As mentioned in the post, Meloche Wants Deputy Mayor Seat, Meloche referenced the deal with Windsor Police to take over policing Amherstburg.

According to the RTT article, Meloche said Essex had $3.9 million in policing costs in 2018 compared to Amherstburg’s $5.8 million.

The article continued, “Overall, we thought it’s a good deal for Amherstburg as a whole,” he said, noting there are $14 million in potential savings over the next 20 years.

Here’s my math:

Essex paid $1.9 million less on policing than Amherstburg.

Amherstburg’s $5.8 million minus $700,000.00 potential annual savings for 20 years will cost taxpayers $102 million.

Essex’s $3.9 million will cost taxpayers $78 million in 20 years.

While Amherstburg is expected to save $14 million, Essex taxpayers will spend $24 million less than us over the same time period.

I maintain that because Amherstburg did not obtain an OPP costing, despite carrying two motions to do so, Amherstburg taxpayers missed the opportunity to know if more savings were possible.

Commentary by Linda Saxon

Taxpayers Pay For Private Firms To Obtain Public Input

Last fall, the Wynne Government announced a controversial decision to hire the Deloitte firm for $415,000. to consult the public on the Government’s problem-ridden idea of a private accessibility certification process being established. The AODA Alliance reports that the Government is not having its own Accessibility Directorate conduct this consultation.

Amherstburg has hired MDB Insight to create a community based strategic plan for just over $36,000. According to MDB Insight’s website, ‘We have grown into Canada’s largest specialist economic development consultancy and continue to evolve to meet the needs of our clients.’

In its January 31, 2016 article, the River Town Times reported that ‘Miceli said the matter has not yet gone to the town’s economic development committee, and told town council it is in the preliminary stages. The next step will be how to engage stakeholders such as the economic development committee and the community as a whole.’

Maybe council should put the unused money budgeted for the strategic plan consultant toward hiring an expert accessible web designer to ensure, finally, that the town of Amherstburg website is accessible.

Commentary by Linda Saxon

Amherstburg Website Added To Barriers In The Burg

The Town of Amherstburg website has been added to the new barriers in the burg page, created in conjunction with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Action Kit “Picture Our Barriers” Action Kit.

Below is a screen shot of the town website taken today:

screen shot of the town of amherstburg websiteDespite my officially requesting an accessible website for the Town of Amherstburg since September 2002, changes are still needed today, March 4, 2016. There were promises to change but a real commitment has not materialized in all these years and for some strange reason, some people believe it will require funding.

I believe the well paid IT staff should be competent enough to address all the accessibility issues.

And, I wish someone would explain how a town the size of Amherstburg can afford body cameras for its police officers when larger municipalities can’t.

Considering all the financial requests council considers, money doesn’t always seem to be an issue; is it a question of priorities?

Commentary by Linda Saxon


Amherstburg should opt for cheaper OPP policing

Commentary by Linda Saxon

Published on: December 15, 2015 Windsor Star

Re: Amherstburg asks Windsor to make an offer on regional policing, by Trevor Wilhelm, Dec. 7.

Mayor Drew Dilkens believes Windsor can outdo the OPP in effectiveness and save Amherstburg money. But will it save the approximate $1 million that the OPP model would save the taxpayers?

I doubt it, especially given that regional police services have considered and/or obtained OPP costings and the majority of police services in the province do have OPP provide policing services.

According to OPP estimates, municipalities with and without contracts save on average anywhere from 35 per cent to 60 per cent by using the OPP instead of having their own police forces — figures reported by the auditor general of Ontario.

For many years, the OPP communications system was in effect countywide. Rather than take advantage of their system, Amherstburg paid for LaSalle’s, then Leamington’s and then back to LaSalle’s dispatching when Leamington switched to OPP policing.

If Windsor and Amherstburg police combined services, it would be an amalgamation of two services, not a regional policing model.

Regardless, Amherstburg would have to incur the expense, once again, for another new communications system since, at this point, Windsor and Amherstburg’s communication systems are incompatible.

The Records Management System of the two policing services is also incompatible. Windsor does not use the NICHE system that OPP, Amherstburg and most other police services use.

Amherstburg taxpayers have long supported a police department hierarchy unparalleled by similar-sized OPP detachments and regardless of whether a community decides on an amalgamated service or a regional policing model that extra financial burden will continue.

Amherstburg need only look to the experience and savings its neighbouring communities enjoy by opting for the OPP policing option.

Accessibility Concerns Misunderstood

Commentary by Linda Saxon

In a letter to the editor, River Town Times, April 8, I expressed my concerns regarding town council’s pre-approval of grants to four community organizations: the Park House Museum, North American Black Historical Museum, Amherstburg Community Services and the House of Shalom Youth Centre.

It would appear, in a letter the RTT published this week from Kathy DiBartolomeo, Amherstburg Community Services, that my concerns were misunderstood.

To reiterate, council is using taxpayer dollars to grant these requests, despite a well-publicized 46 million dollar debt and promises of fiscal responsibility to control and/or reduce it.

Ms. DiBartolomeo believes that my “concern over the town’s website and accessibility to information and the importance of all of the agencies and organizations that receive community grants are two different issues.”

I disagree. Council has not found money over the past twelve years to ensure the town’s website and its documents are universally accessible, but community organizations have received approximately $360,000.00 in grant funding in that time frame.

Policy F10-Grants to Community Groups, enacted May 25, 2005 and amended September 22, 2008 is another outdated municipal policy that needs to be updated.

Council should include accessibility criteria as a requirement when evaluating grant requests from organizations. Additionally, council needs to enact a municipal policy that no public funds will ever be used to create or perpetuate barriers against persons with disabilities.

Because of a lack of an accessibility requirement, shamefully, council has committed taxpayers’ dollars to four organizations that maintain websites with accessibility issues.

Amherstburg chief wants all front-line police to wear body cameras

If Chief Timothy Berthiaume has “always been committed to openness and transparency” why are the costs of data storage and court transcription not disclosed?
The pilot program began in April 2013, not January 1, 2014.
Given the $46 million debt Amherstburg is dealing with, (about half of Windsors’s debt) how can wish list items like these cameras be justified?
Windsor Police Chief Al Frederick says the costs are prohibitive and other police services feel the same way.