‘I’m prepared to do it’: Windsor mayor will use new veto powers on budget, if necessary

The City of Windsor budget was tabled yesterday by Windsor’s mayor with a proposed property tax increase of 3.93 per cent.

Under Ontario’s ‘Strong Mayors, Building Homes Act’ passed in 2022, Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens — with great help from the city’s finance department — prepared this year’s budget.

“I still require the entire finance team downstairs to do all of the work as they’ve done every other year in preparing the budget,” Dilkens said, indicating the process which was carried out this year was “99 per cent the same as years before.”

Now, the changes to the municipal act effectively allow mayor Dilkens to tailor the budget where he sees fit.

“What is allowed to happen now is you have more influence on the priority setting and making sure that we’re tempering some of the expectations in the master plans versus what the public expects in terms of affordability,” said Dilkens.

Now that the budget has been officially tabled, the clock is ticking on bringing it to passage.

The public has two weeks to review the budget and sign up to delegate before city council on Jan. 22.

Council has a 30-day window to review the budget before it meets in early February to either pass the budget as-is, or make amendments.

“Council can say is that fair? Is that reasonable? Should we tinker with a few of the numbers here? Should we add things? Should we subtract things?” said Dilkens about possible scenarios.

Some councillors are unsure of how it will play out, but plan to bring amendments to the table.

“A new process could certainly lead to a different way that we get to the to the end of it. We’ll see what the how it plays out. I think it’ll be very interesting,” said Ward 9 coun. Kieran McKenzie.

But even a majority of council agrees to adopt changes to the budget, they won’t necessarily stick.

Within 15 days of that vote, Mayor Dilkens has the authority to veto any amendments which materially change his document, or which he deems as “unfriendly.”

“I hope not to have to exercise a veto,” Dilkens said. “But at the end of the day, if that’s what it takes to bring a budget in, according to my campaign promise at or below the rate of inflation, I’m prepared to do it.”

If a veto is exercised, council has another 10 days to gather a two-thirds majority to override the veto. If they don’t have the numbers, the mayor’s budget would be adopted.

“We’re at the beginning of what I think will be an interesting ride,” said Kieran McKenzie.

Dilkens notes he tailored the budget priorities based on feedback from residents at ward meetings, consultation with all councillors and to deliver on campaign promises.

Some councillors are comfortable with that.

“I haven’t really seen anything that worries me about the strong mayor powers,” said Ward 4 Coun. Mark McKenzie, noting they’ve been used to make recent staffing decisions, but that council was consulted on those as well.

“I know a lot of people came in and we’re like, ‘oh, strong mayor powers, it’s the end of the world,’ and we haven’t seen that,” he said.

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