KILLALOE – Members of Killaloe-Hagarty-Richards remained calm, cool and collected as they took the heat from ratepayers on June 25.
At the regular council meeting, Gail Sylvestre and Joyce Nicks came to get answers to questions ranging from council salaries to happenings in the township’s fire department. Many of their questions were based on rumours circulating in the township.
“Please do not take this delegation lightly, as I am sure you are already aware there are many concerns from dissatisfied taxpayers,” Sylvestre said.
Sylvestre first focused on the most recent two budgets, both of which included a municipal tax increase. She accused council of receiving a pay increase during hard economic times.
Mayor Janice Visneskie said council did not receive a pay increase, but rather was compensated for the amount of meetings held throughout the last fiscal year.
Most recently, council has been working on the township’s waste management plan. Visneskie said she and Councillor Ernie Cybulski saved thousands of dollars in consultant fees by meeting with the public themselves and working on the issue together.
Sylvestre questioned the $125 that council gets for attending township-related meetings. She also asked about Mayor Visneskie’s salary.
“Why would you get so much for a township so small?” Sylvestre asked.
Visneskie said council takes on a lot of administration work at the office and she does not feel that she or other councillor members are overpaid.
“Anyone can run for council,” Visneskie fought back. “Any one of you that feel that I am overpaid, you can run for my job and you can work here for nothing if that’s what you so choose. You can hire more people to do the job if that’s what you so choose and you can hire a consultant and you can answer to the taxpayer why you are paying those fees.”
Visneskie reiterated that she works hard for the township and lobbies money from other governments so taxpayers do not have to pay for certain items.
When it comes down to the budget increases, council told the delegates that each department sends out a wish list. All of the information is pieced together by council and then cuts are made.
“Not everything that each department asked for was put in the budget,” Councillor Debbie Peplinskie, chair of the finance committee, said.
In fact, it is the requests from taxpayers that drive the budget up, Visneskie explained.
“We are acting on behalf of taxpayers. It’s the taxpayers that ask our staff to make the wish list,” she said. “It’s not council sitting around asking, ‘What should we charge our taxpayers?’”
Sylvestre asked for examples of taxpayers who actually come to the township and ask for services.
Visneskie said people have asked for six streetlights to be installed. The township approved two because of the high price of the lights.Story continues in the July 4 issue of The Valley Gazette.