The annual Mayor’s Breakfast, sponsored by the Tillsonburg District Chamber of Commerce was held Thursday, March 21, 2013.
In his speech, Tillsonburg Mayor John Lessif spoke on several areas, including economic development, the town’s current financial situation with regard to debt and the future vision he sees for Tillsonburg.
“It’s a terrific opportunity for me to deliver the message and to bring the not just the business community, but the community up to date on what my perspective is,” said Lessif. “But it’s also important that the Chamber of Commerce, its members and the community understand that no one person can make it happen. It takes partnership, collaborating with everyone in the community to move it forward.”
With regards to Tillsonburg’s financial situation, Lessif noted the fact that since he took office, the Town’s debt has been reduced by just under 2.6 million dollars and there has been an interest reduction of $91,000. No new debt has been added and no reserve funds are being used to operate the day-to-day business of the town.
A lump sum payment between 1 to 1.5 million dollars will be made to the long term debt in 2013 said Lessif – revenue that was accumulated as a result of the sale of surplus asset properties such as the Special Event Centre for example.
That lump sum payment was in addition to regular principle payments made against the debt in 2013, and is something Tillsonburg residents can be proud of the mayor noted.
“The community should be very, very pleased with this because by reducing that long term debt with that lump sum payment, means we don’t have to go back and re-debenture that money, and we’ll be saving principle and interest payments that can be used for operating the community,” explained Lessif. “It’s a huge step and we’re getting better every year with being more fiscally responsible, for us to be able to invest in our community.
“You want to have your debt where you’re managing it and it’s not the other way around,” he added. “We’re making good progress towards that goal.”
Another concern Lessif spoke of was the drastic increase in policing costs for municipalities across the country, including here in Tillsonburg.
“In 2010, the OPP were given a 5.5 per cent increase in their wages – by the province, without any of the municipalities having any say in that,” he said, “In 2014 the province has promised another 8.5 per cent increase plus the cost of living increase which is going to be somewhere around two per cent.
“The quality of service is not the question here, we get excellent service from the OPP, but you cannot continue, when other people in this economy are taking zero wage increases. It just doesn’t make sense,” explained Lessif.
If such high costs continue to be a reality, Lessif said that dollar figure may very well come out of money used for other areas to operate the town or from the taxpayer themselves.
“We’re not the only municipality facing this - it is a province wide and one could say it’s also a Canadian wide issue,” he added. “We keep talking about it, we keep studying it, we keep meeting about it, but nothing gets done about it.”
Despite such concerns much of Lessif’s talk was positive and focused on development and progress made in Tillsonburg in recent years.
“I see us as a regional centre servicing three counties - the majority of it being Oxford but we service Elgin and Norfolk,” he said. “And being a regional centre means that you must provide a choice for shopping, you must provide a choice for social services and other services and you must supply employment. That’s the vision I see for Tillsonburg – is for us to grow on where we are today, and to have a steady growth in where we’re delivering what the expectation is not only in our community, but those surrounding us.
“I’m very much focused on trying to move our community forward in a organized, respectful fashion, but understanding that you cannot stand still, you must move forward,” said Lessif. “We need to grow our tax levy and protect the services that we provide for ourselves and the surrounding communities. ”