Dr. C. Lloyd Brown-John’s Questions To The Candidates were posted on September 18, 2014, although no answers would be published until after the Chamber of Commerce candidate event to avoid any possibility of some candidates not doing their independent research.
Although the Chamber of Commerce may not have used them, two councillor candidates answered the questions; Glenn Swinton’s answers are below and Scott Kendell’s are in a separate post.
Question: What is “Transparency” in municipal financial management terms?
Question: What is “Accountability”?
Question: What is a “Budget”?
Question: What is the Municipal Assessment “Mill Rate”? What is Amherstburg’s current residential Mill Rate? Supplemental Question: What is the Name of the Agency Responsible for municipal property assessments?
Question: What is Council’s role in respect to Infrastructure Municipal Debenture funding?
Let me try to provide an answer for the questions raised by Dr. C. Lloyd Brown-John. With respect to your question 1 and 2 directed at us hopeful council candidates, I believe that the terms “Transparency” and “Accountability” are simply convenient trigger words some are set on using in their campaign simply to gain credibility from the voters.
Transparency as it would relate to “Municipal financial management terms” should mean that the strength and weaknesses of financial commitments be portrayed to the investors (or taxpayers if you will), in clear and un obscured reports so as to ensure that everyone is aware of the risks or rewards to be expected. This should not be confused with an assumption that daily financial reports will be presented to the public for review or open voting on financial decisions.
Accountability, well accountability is a pretty clearly defined word. According to Webster’s Dictionary accountability is defined as “required to explain actions or decisions to / required to be responsible for something or someone. For someone running for council to promise “accountability” could potentially be a sign that they have never been involved in politics or never should have been in the first place. No one member of a council can really be accountable for the decisions of said council. One vote of seven couldn’t possibly take all the credit for poor decisions nor should anyone expect that they would. If we are to talk accountability perhaps we should review re-occuring team voting?
Personally, I think the last thing that should be included in anyones campaign is the phrases “Accountability or Transparency”. Neither of these qualities could any one member of a council provide as a comity member providing a vote. I for one would rather see Honesty and Integrity but the reputations of those words have been tainted by politics around the globe.
As for a budget… likely best described as a projection of known/anticipated income and known/anticipated expenses. A budget must be drawn with figures that are as close to realistic as physically possible to ensure that the chances of a healthy balance is achieved. By way of “budgeting” we hope to allocate anticipated funds to necessary expanses in advance to better prepare for the upcoming fiscal year.
The municipal Assessment rate or “mill rate” is essentially a taxpayers tax rate. It* is the annual percentage due as taxes based on an assessment of the value of your property as evaluated by MPAC (Municipal Property Assessment Corp.) The current “residential” mill rate for Amherstburg is 0.01532170 which means that a residential property with a value of say $250,000 will be responsible for or “accountable for” $3830.43 in taxes for 2014. This rate has increase from last years mill rate of 0.01475151. That same $250,000 property last year paid $3687.88. An increase of $142.56 per year or $11.88 per month, $2.97 per week. For the record, although Amherstburg’s mill rate has increased it is still lower than Lasalle or Windsor.
Finally, council has to work together and collectively agree on debentures. According to the act, a municipality can only issue a debenture for long term borrowing to provide financing for capital work.