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Telephone Town Hall on the 2019 City of Oshawa Budget


Hello everyone, and welcome to City of Oshawa’s
Budget Consultation Telephone Town Hall meeting. We are live tonight with the City’s Manager, Jag Sharma, and Stephanie Sinnott, the City’s Commissioner of Finance. In addition, we are joined by thousands of community members from throughout the city listening in. To ask a question live tonight, simply press
three on your phone’s keypad. Once again, press three to ask a question
at any time. My name’s Erik, and I’ll be the moderator of the TownHall this evening. During this live virtual TownHall, we encourage you to get involved and to ask questions and give your opinion by voting on a few of our questions. The City of Oshawa chose this format as it is an interactive TownHall with you, which means we want to hear from you. The city has made it a priority to engage and connect with you and fellow community members to get your input on the upcoming
2019 City Budget. This TownHall is a way for the city to directly hear your feedback and opinions. It’s also an opportunity to share some information about the budget process and have an open dialogue with you on what the priorities should
be for the 2019 Budget. For this evening’s TownHall, we are taking questions that are related to the City of Oshawa’s areas of responsibility. This includes the city budget comprised of
both operating and capital budgets, the municipal budget process, and city services and programs. It is our intention to get as many questions
on these topics as possible this evening. You can ask a question at any time by pressing three on your phone’s keypad. Someone will take your name and place you
in the question queue. Now, again, for everyone just joining us,
hello and welcome to the City of Oshawa’s Budget Consultation Telephone TownHall meeting. We are live tonight with the City Manager, Jag Sharma, and Stephanie Sinnott, the City’s Commissioner of Finance. In addition, we are joined by thousands of residents from throughout the city listening in. We want to remind everyone tonight that you can ask a question at any time by pressing three on your phone’s keypad. We’ll also be doing a series of survey questions this evening. You’ll have a chance to vote live using your phone’s keypad on those questions as well. Now, at this time, I’m going to introduce
Jag Sharma, so he can open up the TownHall. Jag, welcome. You’re joining us live. Please go ahead with your comments. Thanks, Erik. Good evening, Oshawa. This is the City Manager, Jag Sharma. On behalf of Council and City Staff, thank
you for taking part in our Telephone TownHall. Joining me this evening is Stephanie Sinnott, our Commissioner of Finance Services. We’re looking forward to answering your questions on the city budget and municipal budget process. Before we get started, let’s walk through
the city budget process. Each fall, staff begins the process of preparing
annual municipal budget for the upcoming year. The city budget consists of capital and operating
budgets. The city’s 2018 Operating Budget was $137
million dollars and is used to deliver services to you in the community This includes snow removal, waste collection, fire services, recreation programs, and much
more. It also includes funding for agencies such
as libraries and the senior centers. The 2018 Capital Budget is $22 million and
is used to fund construction and renewal projects for the city’s core infrastructure such as
buildings, roads, parks, and trails. If you haven’t already done so, visit Oshawa.ca
to complete our budget survey for your chance to win an iPad. Again, you can do that on Oshawa.ca or on
paper at Service Oshawa. I will now turn the conversation over to Stephanie who will be answering your questions this evening Thank you Jag and hello, Oshawa. I am pleased to be here this evening to answer your questions on the city budget. The feedback from this evening will be summarized and shared with Council and City Staff as part of the 2019 city budget process. In January, the proposed city budget, along
with a summary of the community feedback, will be presented to Council. We encourage you to attend the meetings in
person or watch online over web stream. You will then have the opportunity to participate once again by sharing your feedback on the proposed 2019 Budget. Erik, let’s take the first question. Thank you, Jag, and thank you, Stephanie,
for opening up the TownHall. We have our first live question ready to go. Quickly, I do want to remind everyone that if you have a live question you would like to ask on this evening’s topics, which are,
the city budget comprised of both operating and capital budgets, the municipal budget
process, or city services and programs, we want to hear from you this evening. Press three on your phone’s keypad at any time over the course of the TownHall, and you’ll have a chance to ask your live question directly on the event. We’re going to go to our first live question. It’s coming up from Alex. Alex has a comment– or, sorry, he has a question
about reducing the city’s debt. Alex, welcome. You’re joining us live. Yeah. Hi. I read a– given a copy of– I think it was– it might have been Oshawa This Week, or it might have been The Express. But I’ve got it in front of me, and it said our Region needs to provide– like a letter to the editor, and it indicates that there
is $2.3 billion in the Durham Region capital– I don’t know what you call it. A slush fund or a savings account that is
earmarked for eventual use in capital projects or infrastructure projects. So, what I’m wondering is, does the city have
access to this money, and could you not use some of it to– $2.3 billion’s a lot of money. And the size of the budget is what? The Oshawa budget is $130 million. So why could this money not be used to offset some of the spending, and also be used to pay down some of the debt. I’m not saying use all of it, but I don’t know whether we need $2.3 billion. We don’t need that money put into another
waste recycling smokestack disaster on the waterfront. So that’s my comment. Thank you for your question Alex. Unfortunately, the City of Oshawa does not
have access to the reserve funds of the Region which you quoted to be $2.8 billion. We do have our own debt management strategy
and we would love to be able to access those funds from the Region. But unfortunately, they are not under the
city’s jurisdiction. Thank you very much for that comment, Alex. Now, we are going to go to another question. But first, before we do, I want to go to a polling question. So, using your touch-tone phone, you can indicate your response on this question, and we want to hear from you. Rate your overall level of satisfaction with
the quality of services provided by the City. If your answer is excellent, please press
one. If your answer is good, press two. If your answer is fair, press three. If your answer is poor, press four. And if you don’t know or are undecided, press five. So again, rate your overall level of satisfaction with the quality of services provided by the city. If your answer is excellent, press one. If your answer is good, press two. If your answer is fair, press three. If your answer is poor, press four. And if you don’t know, press five. Now, Stephanie, before we go to our next live
question, can you tell listeners, what is the most important thing that the public should understand about the 2019 Budget? Well, Erik, as a family or household, we’ve
all seen prices increase for our necessities. The cost of food, gas, and utilities are all
considerably higher. It means less money remains in the household
budget once the necessities are paid for. The City of Oshawa, like other municipalities,
also faces pressures that impact our budget such as inflationary increases which affect
the number of commodities and a range in percentage of increases. Most notable of those increases are utilities
and fuel cost. We are also pressured by unforeseen costs. An example would be, repairs that are needed
due to a severe weather event such as significant flooding or an ice storm. Like other municipalities, we have aging infrastructure
in need of repair, renewal, or replacement. As the city’s asset management plan matures,
it will provide strategic long-term guidance and help us determine appropriate levels of
capital investment for future capital budgets. The cost to build new projects such as new
buildings and recreation centers are paid over time by today’s users and future users as well. At the same time, we continue to pay down the city’s debt, increase our reserves for the financial health of the city, and support
libraries, senior centers, and not-for-profit community groups. The important thing to keep in mind is that the city budget looks to balance all of these competing priorities and challenges, while
at the same time, providing the day-to-day services that our community needs. We’re going to go to another live question. Before we do, we still have some new people joining the line and I want to let them know how they can ask a question on tonight’s TownHall. This TownHall is an opportunity to share some information about the budget process and have an open dialogue with you on what the city’s
priorities should be for the 2019 Budget. For this evening’s TownHall, we’re taking questions that are related to the City of Oshawa’s areas of responsibility including
the city budget comprised of both, operating and capital budgets, the municipal budget
process, and city services and programs. We want to hear from you. At any time, press three on your phone’s keypad. Someone will take your name and place you
in the question queue. Again, press three if you have a live question you would like to ask on the TownHall this evening Our next live question is going to be from
Steven. Steven has a question about infrastructure. Steven, welcome. You’re joining us live. Hi there. Yes, I have a question. Last year, the city decided not to repave
a number of roads that were in severe need of it. I’m just curious how you guys are balancing your infrastructure funding to make sure that these can get done. Because not only are we behind by one year now, we could potentially be behind more than one, if something doesn’t get done in infrastructure again this year. I’m just curious where your guys’ priorities
went. Thank you for your question. All of the city’s capital projects including
roadworks are prioritized using a capital prioritization matrix, which takes into account
a number of factors including risk, including the age of the infrastructure, including financial
restrictions, and so on and so forth. We also have regional road projects that impact
the city’s road work plan so that we can align our projects with the Region. And if the Region adjusts their priorities,
that, in turn, would adjust the city’s priorities. Steven, thank you very much for your question. To ask a question like Steven, press three
on your phone’s keypad at any time. We’re going to go to another live question. It will be from David. David has a question about taxes. David, welcome. You’re joining us live on the line. Please go ahead with your question. Yes. My question is in regard to the high rate
of tax we have enjoyed in the City of Oshawa. When are they going to come back in line with
the rest of the communities in the GTA? Right now, we’re the second highest. Thank you. Thank you for your question. Currently, the city is examining every budget process. We look at keeping the tax rate affordable. And over the last three years, our tax rate
has been less than 2% on increase. We’re also trying to pay down debt and put
away money in reserves for the future health of the city. Unfortunately, as indicated earlier on the
call, we are impacted by inflationary cost in an annual basis, but we are managing to
keep our tax rates less than the rate of inflation as it currently stands. Over time, if we continue down the path, we
will enjoy healthy financial sustainable future, and that will help to keep tax increases mitigated. David, thank you very much for that question. We’re going to go directly to another live
question. This one is going to be coming up from George. George has a question. George, welcome. You’re joining us live. Please go ahead. Thanks very much. My question is, what is the increase in the
2019 Budget compared to 2018? And if it’s significant, how do you intend
to mitigate the differences, so it doesn’t impact increase in taxes? Thank you for your question, George. Currently, we are in the final stages of compiling
the city’s budget, so I am unable to provide you with the difference or the incremental
increase in the 2019 Budget over the 2018 Budget. We do examine all budget lines through a comprehensive
review. All staff are held accountable to looking
at their budget lines and keeping any increases in check. We do start with the prior year’s budget when
we are embarking on the process. We remove things that were anomalies from the prior year. We add inflation, we add Council approved
activities, and then we start looking for areas that we might be able to cut to keep
the tax increases at bay while maintaining our financial plan to get us to a future healthy financial state. George, thank you very much for that question. We’re going to go to another survey question. So, using your touch-tone phone, you can indicate your response on this question, and we want to hear from you. Do you feel that you understand how your tax dollars are used within the city budget? If your answer is yes, press one. And if your answer is no, press two. So again, do you feel that you understand
how your tax dollars are used within the city budget? Press one for yes, and press two for no. We’re going to go to another live question. This one is coming up from Mark. Mark, the question? Please go ahead, Mark. You’re joining us live. Hi there. I live on Goodman Creek, and we have been
receiving a lot of communication about– the city was going to clean up the creek, and
there was going to be retaining walls, and that they wanted us to share cost with the
city. And those letters were– Mark, are you still there? All right. We’ll try and get Mark back. In the meanwhile, I know that we have another question coming up, and this one is going to be from Mary. Mary has a question about waterfront development. Mary, welcome. You’re joining us live. Please go ahead with your comment. Thank you very much. I appreciate the forum. In response to some of the previous questions,
I wonder why people are so afraid of having their taxes increased when they are beneficial
to us. I would welcome my taxes to be increased incrementally
if it benefits our environment. I am talking about the waterfront. I would like to see a plan to give us the
type of waterfront like Cobourg. We need to have a plan for our waterfront. Thank you. Thank you for comments, Mary. Yes, we are incrementally increasing the budget year over year. We are trying to keep the tax rate affordable and competitive. We are looking at a variety of different capital
projects which includes looking at things at the waterfront. We are looking for opportunities for capital
investment at the waterfront and for a number of other city initiatives. Mary, thank you very much for that question. Now, we still are having some new people join
us. I want to let them know how they can ask a
live question about the 2019 Budget for the City of Oshawa. At any time, press three on your phone’s keypad and you’ll have a chance to ask a live question on the TownHall this evening. We’re going to go to our next live question coming up from Dawn who has a question about snow removal. Dawn, welcome. You’re joining us live. Okay. Thank you. Yes I wondered if you’re a senior, is there a
program in place that shovels the snow from the sidewalk in front of your residence? Is there any thing the budget covers? I really don’t know. Thank you for your question, Dawn. Yes, the city does have a senior snow removal
program in which we will come and clear the sidewalk in front of your house. You will need to contact Service Oshawa to
get all of the information on how to sign up for that program. The city’s phone number for Service Oshawa
is 905-436-3311. Dawn, thank you very much for that question. We’re going to go to another live question. This one is going to be from Chris on the debt. Chris has a question on the debt. Chris, welcome. You’re joining us live. Hello. I was just wondering what our current debt is for Oshawa over and above the operating budget, please. Thank you for your question, Chris. The city’s current debt load is projected
to be approximately $73 million at the end of 2018. Just as additional information, the city implemented a new debt management strategy in June which will help to structure and pay down future
debt and restrict debt issuances going forward. Chris, thank you very much for that question. We have another live question coming up. But quickly, press three on your phone’s keypad if you have a live question that you would like to ask regarding the 2019 Budget for the City of Oshawa. We’re going to go now to Leslie with a question
about garbage pickup. Leslie, welcome. You’re joining us live. Thank you very much. My question is this, and it’s also a comment. Recently, we, in Oshawa, have had an issue
with an increase in rats, and I had an idea months ago. I thought; well, you know what? Right now, the City of Oshawa, for years,
has implemented an every-other-week garbage pickup. Would it be possible to work into the budget,
a weekly pick up of garbage to perhaps reduce the incidence of rats? Because to me, the two just go together. And that’s my question and comment. Thank you for your comments, Leslie. Certainly, that could be something that could
be taken into consideration. Unfortunately, we don’t have our commissioner
community services on the line who, under his purview, would be waste collection and
removal. But we can certainly pass along these comments and have a fulsome discussion while we’re considering that impact to the 2019 Operating
Budget. Thank you, Leslie, for that question. We’re going to go to another live question. This one is going to be coming up from David. David has a question about new business in
the city. David, welcome. You’re joining us live. Hi. My question is, what exactly is the city doing
to attract new businesses to the City of Oshawa, mainly for the purpose of employment? I know the GM plant is the sole employer,
main employer, in Oshawa. How much funds do we have earmarked for attracting new businesses and basically any resources that’s available for new entrepreneurs? Is there anything at all in the budget for
that? Thank you for your question. The city does have an economic development
department who does a lot of robust work in the community. We have a cluster strategy, we have a broadband
strategy, we have studies initiated with smart cities, all those things which could bring
investment and employment opportunities to the City of Oshawa. We’ve also invested some money in Spark Centre,
which is going to help our innovation hub. And all of those opportunities are designed
to bring new business to Oshawa. David, thank you for that question. We’re going to go to another live question. Again, quickly, press three on your phone’s keypad if you have a question you would like to ask on the TownHall this evening. We’re going to go now to Rob who has a question about what– who has a question about departments coming in under budget. Rob, welcome. You’re joining us live. Yes. Hi. Thank you. My question was in regard to different departments that might come in on budget at the end of the year but they tend to not do that because
of fear of their budget for the following year being cut. For example, seeing tree planting happening at the beginning of December. I don’t know if there would be a program that would work for those departments to keep that surplus, they might have, from one year to the next without having their budget cut for the following year. In that way, it could be set aside for those
anomalies that happen for those departments. It might act as an incentive for other departments
to find ways to cut their own budgets and be more conservative in their spending. Rather than lose that budget for the following
year, they keep it as a surplus. Thank you for your comment, David. I can assure you that at this time, departments
do not spend their budget for fear of having future budgets cut. The city’s programs and branches are monitored
from a financial basis every month. All of the variances are discussed, they’re
categorized, and they are determined when– where we might position ourselves for the end of the year. They are reviewed with city management, senior
management as well. They are reported back to Council. So, there’s a high degree of visibility on
the city’s budget, the city’s spending. When we actually present the budget document,
we go through a comprehensive exercise of comparing the 2019 submission to where we
forecast our 2018 actuals to end up to make sure that the increases in the 2019 Budget
are aligned with the department’s initiative as well as their previous operating results. Rob, thank you very much for that question. We’re going to go directly to another live
question. This one is coming from Arliss who has a question
about bicycle routes. Arliss, welcome. You’re joining us live. Thank you very much for taking my call. I’ve noticed that quite a few places in Oshawa now have bicycle lanes. My problem with the bicycle lanes is, in most cases, they paint a strip down the side of the road that’s already there. They haven’t increased the sides of the roads at all. Where I live on Nonquon and then down on Mary,
the bicycles, plus parked cars, plus the cars all are in the same spot, basically, now. And quite often, you’re very in and out of
bicycles. Particularly at night, bicyclers aren’t paying
attention to not wearing black, and it’s getting very dangerous. Is there any possibility– and I realize this
is going to cost more than less on the budget of putting the bicycle lanes between the sidewalks and the road, in some cases, rather than on the road. It’s just a matter of safety more than anything
else. Thank you for your comment, Arliss. The city does have an active transportation
master plan in which we are trying to accommodate other forms of transportation within the city. We’re trying to make sure that we have adequate
bicycle lanes as well as appropriate-sized car lanes. In terms of visibility of cyclists, we can
issue public service announcements warning cyclists to be careful, to be wearing light-colored
clothing, and all of the necessary safety precautions that they should take, which will
hopefully help prevent them from injury, as well as help the cars to navigate around everyone safely. Arliss, thank you very much for that question. We’re going to go to another live question. But again, I want to remind everyone that we want to hear from you this evening. At any time, if you have a comment or a question on the 2019 Budget for the City of Oshawa, we want to hear from you. Press three on your phone’s keypad if you
have a question or comment related to Oshawa’s areas of responsibilities, which include the
city budget, operating and capital budgets, the municipal budget process, or city services and programs We’re going to go to our next live question. It’s going to be coming up from Joe. Joe, welcome. You’re joining us live. Please go ahead with your question. Thank you for taking my question. I work in Toronto. I work with a lot of people from different
parts of the GTA. We all seem to have similar levels of municipal
services even though we live in different regions, and yet we pay a very, very different tax rate. And it seems to me, the reason that they pay a lot less taxes are that their municipality, specifically Toronto, seems to be very good
at making money off the province than we are. We always hear about the provinces– is going
to help out Toronto with this transit project, Mississauga with that transit project. I never hear what we are doing to get our
fair share from the province to help with our goals, and instead, we seem to be the
ones that are number two in the GTA in terms of paying taxes. What are they doing right that we’re not? Thank you for your question, Joe. I can tell you that the City of Oshawa is
continuously working to build our relationships with provincial ministers, making contacts,
and exploring any funding opportunities that might be available to us. As infrastructure and other types of grants
become available, we examine our priorities, especially from a capital infrastructure perspective, and we make sure that we are on top of every grant opportunity that could come the city’s way. You mentioned specifically transit. With respect to transit grants, they certainly
are the focus of the provincial government. Unfortunately, transit is not a city service. Those services are under the Region of Durham. Joe, thank you very much for that question. We’re going to go to another question in a
second. Quickly, we’re going to do another survey
question. So, for everyone joining us, we want you to indicate your response using your touch-tone phone, and we would like to hear from you. What option would you prefer the most to balance the budget? If your answer is to increase property taxes to maintain services, press one. If it is to increase user fees to maintain
services, press two. If it’s a combination of an increase in property taxes and user fees to maintain services, press three. If you prefer a combination of a small increase
in taxes and user fees and a decrease of services, press four. And to maintain current taxes and decrease services, press five. So again, what option would you prefer the most to balance the budget? If your answer is to increase property taxes to maintain services, press one. If it’s to increase the user fees to maintain services, press two. If it’s a combination of an increase in property
taxes and user fees to maintain services, press three. If you prefer a combination of a small increase in taxes and user fees and a decrease of services, press four. And to maintain current taxes and decrease
services, press five. And there was a question that we had that
was submitted prior to the event, and it is, “Why is my property tax bill so high, and
what services do I receive in return?” Thank you, Erik. Residential property taxes collected by the city are distributed to three areas. In fact, the city only keeps about 44% of
the total tax bill that you pay as a homeowner. Let me provide an example, and please keep in mind that these figures are approximate. If your home in Oshawa is assessed at $356,000, your tax bill would be approximately $5,008. The city collects $5,008 in taxes from you,
but we only keep approximately $2,191. The breakdown is as follows. 44% of your tax bill stays with the city to
pay for local municipal services such as garbage and green bin collection, maintenance and
snow clearing on city roads, parking and by-law enforcement, fire protection, animal services,
recreation programs, and more. Another 44% goes to the Region of Durham to
pay for regional services such as police, ambulance, transit, social services, and more. 12% goes to the province for education, specifically for local school boards. The city portion of your tax dollars is managed within the annual city budget. The city portion of your taxes supports municipal
services, funding to agency and local groups that offer recreation and cultural services
including the libraries and senior centers, new capital projects such as bridges and buildings,
and the cost of repairing and renewing our existing infrastructure such as roads, sidewalks, and playground equipment. We have another live question ready to go. This one will be from Leslie. Leslie has a question about police, fire, and other services like that. Leslie, welcome. You’re joining us live. Please go ahead. Hello. Thank you for taking my call again. I formerly asked a question. I had a comment about garbage pickup. My next question has to do with– firstly,
does the City of Oshawa directly decide how much funding goes towards the Durham Regional
Police Force? Thank you for your question, Leslie. The Durham Regional Police Force is under the jurisdiction of the Region of Durham, and they would be responsible for setting the budget for the police. That is not a city service that we have any ability to affect. Leslie, thank you very much for that question. Again, to everyone who would like to ask a
live question about the City of Oshawa’s 2019 Budget, we want to hear from you. Press three on your phone’s keypad at any
time. We’re going to go to a live question from
Merle. Merle has a question. Please go ahead, Merle. You’re joining us live. Thank you. And first, I’d like to say that I think that the City of Oshawa does a very good job of managing our tax dollars coming from our property
taxes, and I think also of being very transparent as to where the money goes, how it’s spent, how it’s controlled. But as was mentioned earlier by Leslie, that a very big part of our tax dollars, an equal amount, goes to the Region of Durham. Actually, a little bit more. And I’m not so sure that they do such a good
job with the City of Oshawa, and I don’t feel they’re as transparent in terms of how those
monies are spent and administered. The fact that they have surpluses, which we’ve heard already are fairly large, the City of Oshawa operates with a deficit. I feel that maybe there should be more consideration
given to a redistribution of tax dollars. I’d like to hear your comments. Thank you very much for your comments and
compliments to the City Staff for how we are managing the tax dollars and how we are trying
to engage the public on an active basis. We don’t have any jurisdiction over the regional
budget or how it’s managed or how it’s communicated back to the public. We do have a number of our city councilors
– so five in particular – as well as our new mayor-elect, Carter, who are also representatives
on the Regional Council. We can certainly pass along your concerns
and comments to those individuals so that they may be able to raise it at Regional Council
and maybe affect the change in their transparency and accountability. Merle, thank you very much for that question. We’re going to directly to another live question. This one is coming up from Karen. Karen has a question about street parking. Karen, welcome. You’re joining us live. Hi. Thanks for taking my call. My call is with regards to parking on the streets. I live on Durham Court. It is a crowded– I’ve got neighbors across
the street which have six cars to their house. They are parked all over the street. The other neighbors do the same thing. Everyone’s parked on the street. It’s become dangerous to actually get out of my driveway because there’s cars left, right, and center. We call the by-law officers. They do come by. But two days later, we have the same problem. Is there anything that you all can do to further expedite these issues? Sorry to hear about your parking troubles. As you indicated, you’ve contacted our by-law
officer, which would be our normal response to parking issues. We do have by-laws in place to help enforce
safety and to make things appropriate on roads. If you continue to contact the by-law officers,
and they continue to come out and continue to lay charges, they can be escalating in
nature, and then hopefully, that will solve the problem Thank you very much for that question. We’re going to go to another live question. This one is going to be coming up from Tom. Tom has a question about snow removal. Tom, welcome. You’re joining us live. Thank you very much. Yes. I live on Park Road South here in Oshawa,
and the sidewalks are within about 20, 24 inches of the roadside. The problem being, a snowplow comes by, fills the sidewalk in. You go out, you shovel it off. Half an hour later, the snowplow comes by again, fills it in. It’s a constant effort during the winter to
keep the sidewalks clear and safe all the way up and down Park Road South, both sides. I have people that live in this building – I
live in an apartment building on Park Road – and they’re in wheelchairs. They cannot make it from the building up to do any kind of shopping because they cannot go
up the sidewalk. Now, I understand that the city services do
provide one of those small plows that do the sidewalk and certain areas for the city. Why is it not possible to have that machine
do these sidewalks after a snowfall? That would at least take some of the effort
and danger out of the sidewalks for people that are senior citizens, etc., living on
Park Road South and other streets in the city that are in the same situation with very narrow boulevards. End of question- Thank you very much for your question. Unfortunately, with the way weather patterns
are changing and things of that nature, unfortunately, sometimes the plow needs to go by more than
one time. And I can appreciate the efforts of people
having to continually plow the windrow left behind by the snowplow. There is a sidewalk snow-clearing program
available to seniors. By calling in to Service Oshawa, you can find
out the details of how you might be able to apply to be part of that program. In addition, we can certainly pass along your
comments this evening to our roads department who are overseeing the winter maintenance,
and they can certainly have a look at some of the sidewalk routing to see if there’s anything that could be done differently to assist the seniors in Oshawa. Tom, thank you very much for that question. We’re going to go to another question. Quickly, if you have a question about the
city budget for the 2019 Budget for the City of Oshawa, please press three on your phone’s keypad. We’re going to go to Phil who has a question about the general budget. Phil, welcome. You’re joining us live. Hi. Good evening. My question is sort of broad compared to some
of the ones that have been asked, and I want to clarify one thing just to make sure I’m right on this as to how Oshawa deals with things. So, I work with municipal governments North America-wide, and one of them is Ottawa. So, one time, the finance department of Ottawa told me, that, how Ottawa structures their budget is, they first decide what a reasonable
tax rate will be for the following year, and then they determine what they’re going to
do with the amount of money that results in. My understanding– and you could correct me. From reading the executive summary of the
Oshawa budget one time, was that it’s the other way around, that first, they decide
how much they want to spend, and then what does that relate to at the percentage in tax
increase or how it’s being increased, I guess. Am I correct in that assumption that the determination is, first, what needs to be spent, and therefore, what tax rate would that be? And if so, I mean, in my mind, that seems that that’s not the correct way of looking at things It should be the other way around. I like Ottawa’s concept, and I don’t like
the opposite, if I’m right about the way the Oshawa budget and the percentage in tax increase
is determined. Thank you for your question. I can tell you that the City of Oshawa does
have a financial strategy in which we look at multi-year budget projections, which would
indicate year-over-year changes in the city’s budget and start to help predict what the
tax levy increase might look like in future years. That information is shared with our council,
and then our council will endorse the financial strategy, which will be undergoing an update
with the new council, and it’s under their purview to provide any direction on tax increases,
anything that might deviate from the financial strategy based on new priorities. And we’ll certainly pass along your comments
to the new council as we move forward through our financial planning process. We’re going to go to another live question. This one will be from Linda. Linda has a question about the operating budget. Linda, welcome. You’re joining us live. Yes, Good evening. Thank you for taking my call. I’m wondering about the operating budget and
the various departments within the city. I’m wondering, could the budget internally
be trimmed by a small percent? And I’m wondering, what is the budget? How do you know how much to give each department,
I guess, is what I’m asking? So, a department gets a certain operating
budget. How is that figured out? Thank you for your question, Linda. The 2018 operating budget was $137 million. That was comprised of four major city departments. That would be the Office of the City Manager, our Corporate Services Department, Community Services Department, Development Services Department. In addition to those major departments, we also have Municipal Parking. We have external agencies that we help to
support such as the libraries, art galleries, senior citizens, etc. All of those priorities are balanced within
the operating budget. We look at every operating budget line within
every department, every program, and every branch, and we scrutinize it to make sure
that it effectively covers the city operations. I can assure you that our budgets are very lean. We review all of our personnel costs, all
of our material costs, and all of our services to ensure that we can provide a competitive
tax rate while providing the services that the city requires. Linda, thank you for that question. We’re going to go to another live question. This one’s going to be coming up from Doug. Doug has a question about the budget process. Doug, welcome. You’re joining us live. Good evening. My question has to do with the process overall, and whether or not the city or its staff look at other cities in Ontario for ideas of doing
it differently regarding either expenditures or taxation revenue services provided, cities
like Kingston, St. Catharines, London, other places like that. Any ideas there? Thank you for your question, Doug. I can tell you that the City of Oshawa is
continuously comparing ourselves to a number of comparators to ensure that we are providing
the best level of service, and that we are providing affordable services. We are always looking to do things better. We are looking at innovative practices. We certainly look at best practices implemented by other municipalities. In addition to that, the city has a continuous
improvement framework by which we do Lean Six Sigma exercises on various operations
of the city to see if we can create savings, whether that be dollar savings, capacity,
other types of efficiencies that will benefit our operations as the city continues to grow. We also have internal audits. Our internal auditors are KPMG. They continue to provide value-added audits
on a year-over-year basis that help us to continually improve to keep the cost of the
city operations low. Thank you very much for that question. We’re going to go to another question. But quickly, before we do, we want to do a
survey question of everyone joining us, and you can use your touch-tone phone to indicate your response. We want to know; what portion of your total property tax bill does the city have direct control over? If your answer is 100%, press one. If your answer is 61%, press two. And if your answer is 44%, press three. So again, what portion of your total property
tax bill does the city have direct control over? If your answer is 100%, press one. If your answer is 61%, press two. And if your answer is 44%, press three. Now, we have another live question coming
up from Allen. Allen, you’re joining us live. Please go ahead with your question or comment. Thank you for the opportunity. This is a follow up on the question of grants, of provincial grants. You mentioned that, yes, there are grants and you look for them. Have you got any specific examples of grants that Oshawa has received this year, either operating or capital grants? Thank you. Thank you for your question. The city typically does not receive funding
in the form of operating grants. Usually, it’s capital grants. So, the most significant grants that we received in the recent past were through the Canada 150 and Ontario 150 initiative. We built a pedestrian bridge down at the Oshawa
Harbour on the Larry Ladd Harbourfront Trail which cost approximately $600,000. Of that $600,000, the city only had to pay
approximately $150,000 with the remaining funding coming from a combination of grants
received through the federal government and the provincial government. Thank you very much for that question. We’re going to go directly to another question. This is going to be coming up from Kevin. Kevin has a question about some of the activities that the city has. Kevin, welcome. You’re joining us. Please go ahead. Thank you for the opportunity to ask my question. I just wanted to know, what are the various
recreational activities that the taxes expense towards? And are these recreational activities predetermined by the city, or are they open to outside groups, non-profit organizations, or? Thank you for your question, Kevin. The city offers a variety of recreation programs. These programs are outlined and communicated
to the community through Leisure Online as well as the Leisure Guide. These programs vary in nature. They could be arts. They could be camps for kids. They could be sporting. They could be swimming. There’s a whole variety of programs that we offer to the community, and we offer them through a variety of age groups as well, from
young tots all the way up to seniors. We look at data analytics around all of these
programs on an annual basis to determine which programs we want to continue to offer to the
public, which programs are getting enough take up and are being treated as cost effective
to the city. Thank you very much for that question. We’re going to go directly to another question. This one’s coming up from Dale. Dale, welcome to the TownHall. You’re joining us live on the line. Please go ahead. Yeah. I’m wondering another thing here. What are we going to do about the homeless
when we have all these empty schools, empty houses They’re just sitting idle. Thank you for your question. The City of Oshawa is actively working with
the Region of Durham who oversees social services in the community. We’re working on a strategy to assist homeless
residents in the community. Dale, thank you very much for that question and that comment. We’re going to go to another live question. Quickly, for everyone joining us, we want
to hear from you. Press three on your phone’s keypad if you
have a question or comment about the 2019 City of Oshawa Budget. So again, press three on your phone’s keypad if you have a question for the TownHall this evening. You’ll have a chance to ask it to live. We’re going to go to Ramsey who has a question
about street repairs. Ramsey, welcome. You’re joining us live. Yeah, I’m here. Thank you. Hello? Hello, Ramsey. Please go ahead with your question. Yeah. I did ask what’s going to be about Gibb Street
Extension, which is– I did but I never had any answer. Are they going to put bicycle lane? Are they going to put the trees in the middle? Thank you for your question, Ramsey. The Gibb Street Extension and the amenities
that would be on an extended roadway would be under the Region of Durham’s jurisdiction,
but we can certainly pass along your comments and concerns to them as they can work out
their capital plan for that piece of road. Thank you very much, Ramsey. We’re going to go to another live question coming up from June. June has a question also about street repair. June, welcome. You’re joining us live. Thank you for having me to speak on your program. My question is, between Highway 2 and Townline in Oshawa, Northwest corner, there’s a plaza in there. And there’s sidewalks in there, they’re
bumpity, bumpity. Anyone could have a fall. There’s a senior building right beside it,
and I feel that it’s detrimental to those of us who’s going to use walkers with wheels
on. Anyone that’s using a scooter, they could
tip on it, and anyone that’s using shopping carts and the other wheeled things to get
to, and from the stores. And I inquired quite a while back about that. They said there’s nothing wrong with the sidewalks. I think either the man was blind, who was supposed to have checked it, or he didn’t bother looking at all. And so, I’ve had a few others say that they
could trip on that. And what’s going to happen there? Are they going to fix those sidewalks? What’s going to happen? They’re right in front of all the stores and the restaurants and whatever else in the plaza there. Thank you for your comment, June. I can assure you that the City of Oshawa is
concerned, first and foremost, with the safety of all residents. The city sidewalks that are along the roadway,
we will certainly pass that information along and have the city’s inspectors out to look
at them right away. We certainly wouldn’t want to have anyone injured on our sidewalks. If I heard you correctly, referring to the
sidewalks and pathways that are actually in front of the stores and the plazas, you might
want to consider contacting the property manager for that development, and that would be their
responsibility to fix those pathways. June, thank you very much for that comment and that question. We’re going to go directly to another one. It’s going to be coming up from John who has a question about garbage pickup. John, welcome. Hello? Hello, John. Please go ahead with your question. Yes, please. I just like to make a general comment relative
to Leslie calling in about the garbage pickup. I agree fully with her. I know that other municipalities do the opposite of Oshawa. They go do a weekly pick up of the black plastic bag, and their blue box is every two weeks. So, it’s the exact reverse of what Oshawa does. We are being forced to throw our garbage in
our homes when we go do a bi-weekly pick up of the black plastic bag. So, I fully agree with Leslie. My main point for phoning in is, as a taxpayer
for 40 years in Oshawa, I’m continually upset with increased taxes. I propose to the city and the Region that
they set up a department dedicated to property tax reduction in which there would be a coordinator
and several employees with a hotline for property tax input from the public on ideas on how to reduce our taxes. The way society is going, we’re going to need
double-income families to support a house and pay the taxes. This is just a very bad situation, and I offer
one solution. Set up that department dedicated to reducing
our taxes. And secondly, I offer an idea. Maybe the city could consider picking up lease and charging homeowners if they want that service. We need a hotline for property tax reduction. Thank you very much. Thank you very much for your comments. Firstly, with respect to the comment regarding
waste, the city is trying to encourage and develop our recycling programs as well as
our green bin pick up. We can certainly appreciate the sensitivity around the picking up of the black plastic bags. And as we indicated to Leslie, we will pass
that information along to our waste collection individuals for them to have a look at how
they might be able to change their program, if that’s feasible, to mitigate any potential
problems with rats. With respect to the second part of your question,
in terms of setting up a department to look at property tax reduction, the city has adopted
a continuous improvement framework in which we apply different principles. We look at risk management. We do regular reviews of our service delivery models. We have internal audits that look for value
for money, whether that be real dollars or capacity to assist us in dealing with growth. And most importantly, directed at your comment,
our Lean Six Sigma exercises in which we are undertaking an initiative to educate all city
employees on how they can identify waste, on how they can identify manual processes, and
other areas in which we can either cut, correct, or streamline processes to ensure that we
are delivering a competitive tax rate. Thank you very much for that comment and question. We’re going to go to another one. It’s going to be coming up from Steven who has a question about budget allocation. Steven, welcome. You’re joining us live. Hello, Steven? You’re joining us live on the line. Please go ahead with your comment. My name is Steven. I just have a– we’re talking mostly about budget. I have a question about allocation between
the wards. Is it based on the population or the density
of the actual ward or the size of the ward? Because some of the wards are bigger but with
less population, and some of the wards are smaller with higher density. So, I don’t know exactly how that’s all allocated. So, if you help me with that question, I’d
appreciate it. Thank you for your question, Steven. The city budget is determined and allocated on a city-wide basis. It’s not on a ward-by-ward basis. It’s not based on population. It’s based on the services that we need to
deliver to the city as a whole. Thank you very much for that comment. We are going to go to another question. It’s coming up from Eugene. Eugene, welcome. You’re joining us live. Oh, hi. My question is a two-pronged question, and it has to do with the City of Oshawa cooperating with the Region either in terms of public
announcements or also in terms of developing a strategy to filter or screen out things in the street. Cigarette butts that are very toxic, they
end up going, ultimately, into the lake. They might go through a holding pond, but
eventually end up in a lake, and that’s the source of our drinking water. And some people don’t realize that that’s
what happens when you throw a cigarette butt out or other garbage on the street. What steps can be done to cooperate with the
Region to alert people that it’s dangerous, and perhaps work out a strategy to screen
out the garbage and not let it go into our drinking water– source of our drinking water? That’s my question. Thank you for your question. We do cooperate on a number of communication initiatives with the Region. In particular, you mentioned street sweeping. The city does sweep the streets, and then
those street sweepings are treated and environmentally disposed of in an environmentally friendly
way. Thank you very much for that question. Now, Jag and Stephanie, we’re just about reaching
the end of the TownHall. We had a lot of good questions this evening. With a few minutes remaining, are there a
few final thoughts and closing remarks you would like to share with our listeners? Thank you, Oshawa, for participating. Tonight has been an excellent opportunity to talk with you. Before we end this evening, I encourage you to continue to participate in the 2019 city budget process. There are still many opportunities to provide your feedback. Visit ConnectOshawa.ca to learn more about January’s live Q&A process and complete a budget survey at Oshawa.ca to look for your
opportunity to win an iPad. Your questions this evening and other feedback received will be summarized and shared with Council and City Staff as we prepare the 2019 Budget. The proposed 2019 City Budget will be presented
to Council for consideration in January. You’re invited to attend meetings in person
or to watch online over web stream. Once the proposed budget is presented, there will be opportunities to share your feedback online and in person. To learn more, visit ConnectOshawa.ca. Again, thank you for joining us. A recording of tonight’s TownHall will be
available online by November 30th. Thank you again to everyone for joining us. If you still have any questions or feedback
on the 2019 City Budget that you would like to share, I want to remind you, you can do
so by going to www.ConnectOshawa.ca or by calling us at 905-436-5686. Again, please provide your questions and feedback
at www.ConnectOshawa.ca or call us at 905-436-5686. Also, the questions and answers from this
evening’s TownHall will be posted online at ConnectOshawa.ca in the coming business days. Thank you again to everyone for joining us
and have a great night.

Robin Kshlerin

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