AMO Coverage in Milton Champion

Milton politicians stress need for more schools at AMO – Key concerns discussed at provincial conference

Julia Le – Milton Canadian Champion:  A need for more schools was among the key concerns Mayor Gord Krantz and eight councillors raised last week during the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conference.

Krantz, councillors Sharon Barkley, Arnold Huffman, Mike Cluett, Rick Di Lorenzo, Cindy Lunau and Zeeshan Hamid, Tony Lambert and Local and Regional Councillor Colin Best were joined by Halton Regional Chair Gary Carr and Halton District School Board Trustee Donna Danielli as they met with Deputy Education Minister George Zegarac at the conference held in Ottawa to explain the challenging situation they are finding the Town in and the dire need from the Province to commit to building more schools to support the fast growing communities and the families and young children moving into them.

The meeting was originally schedule with Education Minister Laurel Broten, however likely due to the issues surrounding the current negotiations with teachers’ unions and school boards, Broten was unable to attend the conference, held each year to bring together municipal and provincial leaders and offer panels, discussions, and keynotes on a selection of municipal interest topics led by industry experts.

The group served as a united front in presenting Zegarac the reality Milton faces.

Danielli, the school trustee for the Milton 2, 3, 4 and 5 areas, said if it wasn’t for the repurposing of the old E.C. Drury High School, P.L. Robertson Public School was projected to have 40 portables by 2014. The old high school will now host a satellite location for P.L. Robertson as a temporary measure until a new school is built.

“It’s the best solution we have, but it certainly isn’t an ideal situation,” she said, adding that there’s no real place for full-day kindergarten and that families will have to be split up at different locations.

The group also lobbied for more funding to keep older schools up-to-date technologically and physically.

Danielli added the funding formula the province uses to dole out money to school boards needs to be revised.

“When you look at the 11 boards that are closest in area (to us), we’re at the bottom of the list in terms of per pupil funding,” she said.

The 56,000 students in Milton are receiving $1,000 to $1,500 when compared to surrounding school boards.

Krantz said he believes the group put its best case forward to the Ministry of Education and Zegarac, who seemed to be well versed in the town’s concerns.

“Was there anything ultimately resolved, well that’s hard to tell at this point, but I refer to it as keeping issues on the radar screen,” he said. “I think being in their face with your issues is just as important. (It shows) we’re not going away until we get some of this stuff sorted out.”

Danielli was more optimistic about the outcome of the meeting.

She said Zegarac seemed empathetic, even going as far as to say Milton was the “poster child of why we need capital funding.”

She doesn’t believe anything will be resolved until teacher negotiations have been settled, but hopes the Town will get the green light sooner rather than later to start construction before the end of the year.

Other issues Krantz and councillors discussed with the appropriate provincial ministers at the conference included making sure the hospital expansion was kept on the radar and the effect the Slots at the Racetracks program closure will have, not only on the horse racing industry but on the town.

The Province announced earlier this year that all payments made to the horse racing industry, including Mohawk Slots, through the Slots at the Racetracks program will end as of March 31, 2013.

Krantz and Lunau met with Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Minister Ted McMeekin to discuss the importance of keeping the horse industry alive. 

Halton Region Community Investment Fund

In the next of his series of videos, Regional Chair Gary Carr highlights the value of just some of the organizations that benefit from the Halton Region Community Investment Fund.

The Halton Region Community Investment Fund (HRCIF) supports non-profit community health and social service programs aligned with strategic directions in The Citizens’ Priorities – Halton Region’s 2011-2014 Action Plan.

HRCIF provides:

– one-time grants for a maximum of 1 year and up to $20,000 that fund community health and social service programs aligned with funding priorities for short-term, time-limited, small capital and/or innovative projects.

– multi-year funding aligned with the term of Council and up to $125,000/year to non-profit, charitable, community health and social service programs aligned with funding priorities.

The next call for proposals will be in 2013 for one-time grants and 2015 for multi-year funding.

In this video he shows what the investment fund can do for two local Halton organizations, one of which is MCRC (Milton Community Resource Centre)  As part of my official duties as local councillor for the Town of Milton, I am a board member of MCRC and very impressed at the quality of child care they provide the children.

Have a look at the video and if you want any information on the Halton Region Community Investment Fund, you can send me an email mike@mikecluett.ca

AMO Update – Post Ottawa

Over the next couple of days, I will get a more detailed accounting of what Milton councillors did on our 3 day conference in Ottawa.  I promise 🙂

For those that don’t know, myself along with a number of Milton Councillors attended the annual Association of Municipalities of Ontario Conference in Ottawa.  This gives local elected officials an opportunity to meet, discuss ideas that are important to their constituents, attend workshops and seminars as well as network with provincial government officials as well.

Last year a number of councillors went to the conference in London Ontario to meet with the infrastructure minister as well as the provincial health minister to stress the importance of the expansion of Milton District Hospital.  At that point we were armed with over 6,000 plus fresh signatures from the Grow Milton Hospital campaign as well as the previous Friends of Milton Hospital’s 35,000 plus signed cards from residents to let them know the number one issue in our town was the hospital.

You’ll remember that shortly after that (and a looming provincial election in the coming weeks MIGHT have had a LITTLE something to do with the announcement /end sarcasm) we received word that the expansion was going to move forward.

This year there were a number of issues that face Milton as we continue to grow in leaps and bounds.  Unofficially our population ticker is over the 100,000 mark and headed even higher.  There is a lack of schools being committed in Milton, which is one of the main reasons that our Halton District School Board Trustee Donna Danielli attended the conference for this meeting.

We were originallytrying to meet with the Education Minister Laurel Broten, but given the high pressure of the teachers negotiations, she was nowhere to be found in Ottawa (same as the finance minister oddly enough 🙂 ) but we ended up with Deputy Education Minister instead.

The deputy minister knew of Milton’s needs well before we got there as we are one of many municipalities that are facing these school shortages.  Donna was our “point person” during this meeting as she faces these issues on a daily basis, hearing from residents about when new schools will be ready, why there are 30 portables in each location and when will it stop.  Milton council members don’t have jurisdiction in this at all.  I got emails from folks telling me that we shouldn’t be bothering since we have no control.

Its true.  We dont have an official say in this and our presence there was mainly symbolic.  But it did make a point to every minister we met that Milton meant business.  If you follow the news at all, you know there is a lot going on right now with the education ministry and the “negotiations” with school boards and teachers, which was probably the reason she didnt make it to the AMO conference.  I am confident that we will be hearing some good news soon regarding some of our much needed schools in Milton, after everything else is being dealt with.  So stay tuned for that news.

That wasn’t the only meeting myself and the other councillors attended in the 3 days.  There were a number of meetings with government ministers to discuss items like slot revenues, the horse racing industry and MPAC issues we are having. 

As outlined by Kim Arnott in the Milton Canadian Champion recently, we could be possibly facing an issue of property tax increases here in Milton and other areas due to MPAC being delayed in their reassessment of homes.  Here’s the article.

Assessment issues could impact Milton property taxes

A “hair-raising” property tax increase could be in the works for Milton as a result of assessment issues that are beyond the Town’s control.  A combination of delayed assessment updates and resolved assessment appeals could result in a property tax impact of as much as $2 million, or a six to seven per cent increase on local property taxes.When combined with education and regional taxes, the result could be an increase of two to three per cent on the combined tax bill that’s mailed to local residents.  

“It’s making the hair on the back of my neck stand up,” said Councillor Mike Cluett. “This is very important.”A report delivered to council last night by Milton treasurer Linda Leeds outlined the challenges for the coming year.  The Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC), the provincial body responsible for assessing properties and assigning values for taxation purposes, will be conducting a province-wide reassessment next year.

Prior to the completion of that reassessment, an attempt is currently underway to resolve outstanding assessment appeals from prior years, with a focus on commercial and industrial properties.  However, that means that assessors are involved in hearings and not available to undertake assessments of new properties so they can be added to municipal tax rolls.

This is particularly problematic for rapidly-developing municipalities like Milton. The assessment and addition of new properties throughout the year — known as supplementary assessments — allows the Town to begin collecting taxes from those properties.  A delay in adding new properties to the municipal tax rolls means the Town needs to finance the expansion of services to accommodate new residents and business while it waits for the cash to come in.

In the 2012 budget, taxes from supplementary assessments were anticipated to be $2 million. However, so far this year MPAC has assessed only 116 of more than 800 new residential properties, for a total of only $77,413 in property taxes.

Staff is particularly concerned with the possibility that new commercial and industrial properties – which typically carry large tax bills – may not be assessed in a timely fashion.  The attempt to rapidly resolve outstanding assessment appeals could also impact on the town’s finances.

When property owners appeal their assessments, they are required to pay the full assessment until a decision is made on the appeal. If an appeal is successful, the Town issues a refund for taxes paid.   

As the 2012 budget was established prior to the announcement of the plan to try and resolve outstanding appeals, only $230,000 was budgeted for refunds arising from successful appeals.  However, with 94 individual non-residential properties in Milton combining for 591 appeals (some dating back to 2001), the town could easily be on the hook for refunds that far surpass the budgeted amount.While the town has no direct control over MPAC, councillors did pass a resolution to ask MPAC to undertake the necessary supplementary assessments, and resolved to bring the issue to the attention of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.

One of the seminar/workshops that AMO had this week was an update from MPAC by Chair of the Board Dan Mathieson and Antoni Wisniowski, the new CAO and the status of a number of things, and whats to come.  Needless to say it didn’t have a lot of answers to questions during the presentations, but they did do a Q&A with attendees afterwards.  As you would expect, Regional Councillor Colin Best was right up there for the questions and highlighted many of our concerns raised in that motion Milton council passed.

From what we were told at the conference, the slides and possibly video of some of these sessions might be available so if and when it does, I will post here on my site.

I will get into more detail soon regarding the different sessions myself and members of council did attend.  We were there en masse and we tried to spread ourselves out to maximize our numbers but there was still some overlap in some of the sessions.

If you have any questions or want some specific information on sessions I attended on behalf of the Town of Milton, either post a  comment or send me an email Mike@MikeCluett.ca

Discover Milton Chats with Mike Cluett

October 2012 marks the half-way point for the term of Milton’s Town Council.  Discover Milton (D.M.) recently had a chance to chat with Ward 6 Councillor Mike Cluett about how life is going for him in his first term. We covered a variety of topics about Milton and even learned a thing or two we didn’t already know about him.

Cluett is a Brampton native, and married with two kids.  His family moved to Milton in 2003, and he has always been involved on various committees before running for office in the October 2010 election.  He is a first term councillor representing ward six, one of the newly created wards.  Ward 6 has boundaries of Thompson Rd (West), Fourth Line (East), Derry Rd (North), and Britannia Rd (South).

D.M.:  What’s been your biggest personal challenge since you’ve been elected?

M.C.:  “The biggest challenge so far since being elected is doing my best to maintain a good work-life balance.  The position of councillor is part time and many of us have full time jobs/businesses and it’s difficult to keep the balance with everything that’s going on.  The key is having a very supportive family, which I am very lucky to have.”

D.M:  What’s been your biggest political challenge?

M.C.:  “Communication with the residents in my ward & in the Town of Milton has been the biggest challenge.  During election campaigns I find that people get engaged in the process and are aware of issues.  Unfortunately in between election campaigns it becomes more difficult to engage residents in discussions regarding tax increases, government spending, and what services to increase/decrease.  I have been working hard utilizing social media (Twitter/Facebook) to try to engage residents in these discussions and get them involved in the process.  I have always believed that you shouldn’t just see your elected officials during election time.  It’s what’s done in between the campaign that matters.”

Meeting Milton residents is Cluett’s favourite part of the job.  “It’s great to meet new people all the time who are just as passionate about Milton as I am.” Cluett meets a lot of people at community events including the recent Cruisen on a Hot Summer Night.

His least favourite part of the job is when residents come to him with a problem and he can’t do anything about it.  “Sometimes it’s the responsibility of another level of government,” he said.  Besides attending events, Cluett takes time to regularly canvass his ward.  He recalls one resident handing him a jar of garlic pickles following a conversation on traffic calming and cell phone towers.

“They were awesome, and I’ll be sure to go back there door-knocking again soon too,” he said.

D.M.:  How would you evaluate the Council’s progress so far?

M.C.:  “The voters will decide how well we are progressing at election time. I think this council is doing an OK job but in reference to tax levels, communications, and focus I would rank us as “needs improvement.”  We can always do better.”

Cluett feels Council’s biggest challenge is to balance the town’s needs against the continued growth and keeping voters informed on various projects due to start before the end of this term.

“There are a lot of road projects that will be started before the end of next term such as the Main Street expansion, Derry Road underpass, Tremaine Road widening as well Steeles expansion.” Cluett continued adding the key to it all would be to keep the voters informed.

The future could see him with a new position with Milton Council following the next municipal election. He has recently announced his intention to run for Regional Council wards 1,6,7,8.

“Milton has only 3 councillors at the Region and each representative there needs to be focused, knowledgeable and a strong communicator,” he said.  He made the decision after speaking with voters and hearing their frustration. 

“There are many things happening now that will have an effect on the quality of life in Milton, and we can’t afford to take chances on who represents us.”

D.M.:  How do you feel social networking (Twitter, Facebook) helps politicians?

M.C.:  “It helps connect you to the voters. It’s become such an integral part of our life, when something happens many people jump online, or check Facebook & Twitter for information.  The important part of social media is to engage people in conversations. Anyone can use it to spout off campaign platforms or messages of the day.  It’s key to have direct interaction with people through conversation and if used properly can help increase voter turnout.”

Turnout for the 2010 municipal election was approximately 32.6%.

D.M.:  Where did the nickname “The Mouth of Milton “come from?  How did Ann’s megaphone come about?

M.C.:  “I have been privileged to know the Tiger Jeet Singh family and Troy Newton (Troy’s Diner) and to help out as much as I can with their charity causes like Tigerfest and Troy’s Toy Drive.  We were sitting in the diner one day when someone suggested I get a megaphone for the event (even though many would say I don’t need one) where Troy blurted out “The Mouth of Milton” in reference to “The Mouth of the South Jimmy Hart” in the old days of wrestling.  In promoting last year’s Milton Tiger fest, I even recorded a video pro wrestling style as the Mouth of Milton.  The name just stuck.”

Cluett even had a megaphone painted like a mouth by local artist Ann Kornuta.  The name is oddly fitting, as Cluett is a former Disc Jockey (D.J.), and emcee for dances and weddings.

Councillor Mike Cluett can be reached via his email address: mike@mikecluett.ca on Facebook, or on Twitter as @Mike_Cluett and through his website www.mikecluett.ca

Milton Town Council Meeting July 16, 2012

The next meeting of Milton Town Council is on Monday July 16, 2012 starting at 7pm at Milton Town Hall.

The governing body of the Town of Milton is Town Council, consisting of the Mayor and 10 Councillors who represent Milton’s eight wards.  Milton residents elect members of Council for a four-year term of office.  You can find a link to watch the Town Council meetings here.  The meetings are also broadcast on TV Cogeco (Channel 14).

Town Council deals with:

  • Matters requiring policy direction
  • By-laws or by-law amendments
  • Responses or actions to pertinent issues

Council also makes decisions on the recommendations of Milton’s two Standing Committees of Council:

  • Administration & Planning Committee
  • Community Services Committee

The link to the agenda can be found here.

Some of the highlites in the agenda are as follows:

If you have any questions, please feel free to call or email me mike@mikecluett.ca You can also go to the Watch Online link on my page to view from the comfort of your home.  I look forward to seeing you there.