Highlights of an interesting Budget Cycle
For this journal entry I thought it best to reflect on the city budget that has just been approved for 2022. This is of course no small feat! Council had to review more than 500 pages of budget documents, and my eyes are exhausted just thinking about it. This budget cycle had several items that I believe will make a big difference in our community. Below I have created a list of my Top five favourites. There are of course, many more.
#1 Night-time Warming Centre
Over the last few years there has been an ever-increasing call for there to be a night-time warming centre for our city’s homeless. Last year, many were left to face the harsh winter with nowhere to go during the coldest nights. It has been a true community effort to address this issue.
After having seen the desperate situation many went through, a group of service providers sought a more permanent solution. Representatives from Orillia’s Lighthouse, the Couchiching Jubilee House, North Simcoe Victims Services, the Sharing Place, Information Orillia, the OPP, Orillia Fire, as well as some council members, got together to seek out a solution. With this support from the city, along with donations and gifts from these service providers and individuals, an Orillia night-time warming centre has become a reality. The introduction of this item not only will give Orillia’s homeless some comfort and dignity throughout this winter, but it very well could save lives. Looking forward, it is hoped that this project can be revitalized annually, with multiple stakeholders getting involved.
#2 Increase to the Affordable Housing Reserve
While the city also contributes funding to the county to address affordable housing, in 2018 the City Council approved the creation of an Affordable Housing Reserve. This reserve was meant to be drawn on to offset new affordable housing builds within the city. No doubt, as we see the housing rental rates climb ever higher, and get increasingly more competitive, encouraging Affordable Housing Projects are going to be key to improving the situation for many Orillians.
Up until this year, the annual allotment to the affordable housing reserve had been $80,000. At Budget this year, the City Council approved an additional $20,000 per year for a total of $100,000 yearly to go into the reserve. This is a small step, but at least a step in the right direction. That said, far more will be needed from all levels of government, including our municipality, if we want to address this issue in a meaningful way.
#3 A $25,000 contribution to Traffic Calming in the city
This item nearly didn’t get approved at budget this year. Full credit to Councillor Ainsworth for his perseverance in getting it approved.
Speeding is one of the main issues that has been brought to me by residents on countless occasions. These complaints usually come from certain neighbourhood streets within Ward 3 where the design of the road makes it easier to speed. Most notable are the areas of Emperor Drive, Monarch Drive, Skyline Drive/Alexander Road, and Collegiate Drive, down from OSS towards Coldwater Road.
While this annual allotment may not be able to cover all areas of concern within Ward 3 or the city, it will go a long way to addressing some of these concerns in the areas that need it most. With this funding now available, calming measures such as: speed humps, centre lane speed signs, and digital feedback signs could be in use more regularly within the city.
#4 A Coat of Arms refresh
Over a year ago, concerns were raised by a local indigenous person regarding the Orillia coat of arms. At our coat’s centre was an indigenous paddler who was painted bright red. After further consultation with other local indigenous residents and the Council at Rama, the city has chosen to adjust the coat so that the paddler is no longer bright red, but instead a realistic skin colour.
While this is a small change to the coat, it ensures that our city’s public image is one that is inclusive and respectful. The paddler is an important symbol that recognizes the long history of the Narrows as a meeting place for indigenous peoples.
A special thank you to the staff from the city for their extensive work on this project!
#5 Upgrades to Swanmore Hall at the Leacock Museum
These upgrades are long overdue to say the least. For those not familiar, Swanmore Hall is located right across from the Leacock Museum and overlooks the beautiful Brewery Bay. The Hall has so much potential, but the building itself is outdated. The hall serves many purposes for the museum including: an events centre, a kitchen and restaurant area, a welcome centre, a space for offices, and a place for the archives. Despite its many uses, however, the building’s older décor and use of space is not as welcoming as it could be. The refurbishment will modernize much of the building’s interior and provide space for a revitalized restaurant area. With these changes to Swanmore Hall, the charm and beauty of the site can be realized that much more.
Of course there were many more items that we approved during this budget cycle that will make a positive impact for Orillians. These were just my top five.
If you have any questions about this past budget cycle, or any comments on the budget or the article itself, feel free to reach out to me by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by phone (1-705-279-3249). I am always interested in hearing from you.
Thanks for reading and hopefully, talk soon,
Councillor Jay Fallis