Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sunday December 30, 2012

New Year’s 2013

Another year completed in Midland – but are we making progress towards our becoming a prosperous, balanced and sustainable community where all citizens can enjoy a high-quality of life?

Our backdrop for 2012 presented some formidable challenges:
  •  A slow economy that continues to hamper local businesses, depress our real estate market and discourage  quality job creation. This is compounded by senior governments cutting back on loans and grants to municipalities
  • A municipal cost structure that is unsustainable – resulting in projected annual tax increases of 4-7% for the foreseeable future
  • A community that benefits from a growing population of active seniors and but suffers a diminished population of young singles and families – all in, near zero-population growth

Challenges to be dealt with but……

How Did We Do in 2012?

While there were some set-backs in 2012 most of the developments were positive:

  1. Despite philosophical divisions, Council came together to deliver a 2013 budget in the 1% range, just above the 0% target.  Positively, most departments hit the 0% target.  Fire and Police still require some work. (Note: 2013 budget yet to be finalized)
  2. The Council mandated KPMG study sets the stage for further service efficiencies and tax increase control over the next three years. 
  3. Council also made service adjustments and cuts, something many Councils are loath to do.  Council decided to move some funds from superior services such as snow plowing and grass cutting to new areas such as improved LED street lighting and waterfront planning.
  4. Midland made good but limited progress on efforts to manage its economy. The miniscule $5.000 budget was leveraged into a new area economic website and promotion. More importantly tourism, a portfolio where attention was greatly needed, was reinvigorated under the aegis of Mr. B. Peter.
  5. The Midland Cultural Centre opened in our midst. I may be biased but the MCC is arguably the greatest physical cultural asset that we have. Properly developed it will significantly contribute to our quality of life and prosperity. Our collective thanks to the Weber Foundation.
  6.  And not to be overlooked, the many services that everyone in our community relies upon continue to be delivered in a safe and professional manner.

What’s Likely for 2013?

2012 laid the foundation for service levels, budget and economic development.  2013 will build upon that base.

  1. Expect continued focus on budget discipline.  Tax rate increases should remain about 1% (inflation) for the next 2 years. 
  2. Expect further adjustments as municipal service levels are balanced with our taxpayer’s ability to pay. Labour negotiations will be interesting as we move from an era of 2.5% - 7% increases to one of 0 – 1.5% increases.
  3. There will be further change in our local employment situation. Zellers will close in the spring with the loss of some 100 jobs. On the positive side, a number of our larger employers, both established and new to Town, will be hiring in 2013.  In net we should be adding quality jobs.
  4. We  will increase our efforts for landing more employers and jobs. There will be increased direct contact with existing and potential employers. The “Unimin waterfront plan” will be completed. More events, including “Tall Ships” and “Tugfest”. The potential for a “business incubator”, to kick-start small business formation. Tourism will be better coordinated – look for more private sector involvement, including links to the Keewatin. And lastly expect more focus on improving high-speed internet access to our Town.
  5.   Look for the Town to develop a housing strategy to ensure we have the housing stock and amenities to match our needs, especially those of our aging population.  We will be partnering with the County in this initiative.
  6. We will participate in a Youth Engagement strategy with the YMCA, to identify youth interests and build ways to engage youth in the future of Midland.
  7. And as for our seniors, the Seniors Council has taken an active lead with their new “seniors strategy”. I expect to hear more from then in the near future.

A lot needs to happen in 2013 to keep us on the road to “quality of life”.  And it won’t happen unless each citizen does his/her part.  So your first question in 2013 should be “What can I do to help make it happen?”

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