City Council Votes to Cut Spending to Hold the Line on Taxes

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Windsor's city council has voted in a mandate to shoot for a zero per cent tax increase in 2022.

Administration presented a recommendation for the 2022 budget that would ask city departments to come back with a plan to shed five per cent of their operating budget Monday.

The move is in response to a $14.5-million deficit due to lost revenue and expenses that have been attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ward 1 Councillor Fred Francis put a motion forward to push planned budget cuts to 10 per cent to hold the line on taxes.

"We can't always be at a zero per cent increase, it's impossible, but having that as the exercise allows us to see options and efficiencies we may not have considered before," he added.

Francis says it's better to see financial options and decide what items can stay or be cut later.

"One of my fears is that we continue to kick in increases to the point where council becomes irrelevant and the increases just happen automatically," he says. "All of a sudden those non-discretional spending items become more and more."

Ward 6 Councillor Jo-Anne Gignac says asking departments to provide a leaner budget won't automatically result in cuts to services.

"We start with a budget that allows the community in to a zero based budgeting exercise to hear from the departments exactly what they're budget covers," she says. "Then we can explore it together how we might be able to cut those budgets without effecting services."

Ward 3 Councillor Rino Bortolin opposed the move, saying budgets are about more than just dollars and cents.

"It really is about the services we are trying to render that we are delivering on daily basis," he says. "We should be using service delivery and the triple bottom line method to actually create that baseline."

Council could still come back with a zero per cent tax increase without asking for more budget cuts, according to Ward 4 Councillor Chris Holt.

"We will continue to be very fiscally responsible in the way we move forward with the delivery of services, but we need to put the delivery of those services and creating the vision of what this community is that we're all working together to build at the forefront," says Holt.

Ward 9 Councillor Kieran McKenzie says an increased focus on cutting costs could take a toll on services.

"We do need to be mindful of that side of the ledger, but certainly looking at the returns that come from making investments can also put us into a stronger position to be an even better destination," he says.

Council voted the plan in by a 6-5 margin.

Councillors Francis, Gignac, Jeewen Gill, Jim Morrison and Ed Sleeman were joined by Mayor Drew Dilkens in support of the motion.

Gary Kaschak, Fabio Costante along with Bortolin, Holt and McKenzie opposed the decision.