Year-end reflections from Woodstock Mayor Trina Jones

by | Jan 20, 2024

Jones looks back at 2023, looks forward to 2024

Before the New Year, the River Valley Sun reached out to elected officials in our coverage area to reflect on the past year and look at plans and challenges for the coming year. 

Here is Woodstock Mayor Trina Jones’ response to our question regarding her community. 

RVS: What were the Council highlights in 2023? 

TJ: The council worked well together this year and I’m proud of that, especially being a relatively new council overall. 

One main focus was analyzing current staffing levels and organizational structure to ensure we have the right staffing support to be well-positioned to grow and succeed in providing the levels of service our community members expect. 

We did a lot of assessing and a lot of listening, and the result was some modifications to the organizational structure and the addition of some staff this year that we felt were necessary to both stabilize current operations and position ourselves for the future and budgeting for some additional staff in 2024. We are still analyzing gaps that exist into 2024, which may lead to further changes.

RVS: Going forward, what are your challenges, and what are the council’s top priorities for 2024? 

TJ: Council will be working together to set our goals for 2024 in January, but we are already working on a few top goals. 

We are aiming to have a coordinated approach with all five wards for Emergency Measures Orders, ensuring we have at minimum power and/or warming centres in an emergency throughout our community identified and prepared to operate in power outages with proper communications plans for the community. 

We will be strategically planning in the first quarter and likely into the second quarter of the year for future recreational, arts and cultural needs, as well as for infrastructure maintenance and upgrades for water, sewer, stormwater systems, and roads. 

We will also be placing a large focus on development needs for housing in our community and working with our local developers to revisit current incentives and barriers preventing development to determine how to best work together to support the building of all types of housing.

RVS: What should the province’s plans for financial restructuring include for municipalities? 

TJ: We rely largely on property tax revenue for our main revenue stream. Affordability is a challenge for many community members, and we don’t want to continue to have to rely only on raising property taxes to maintain current services and pay for additional services that have been handed down to the Regional Service Commissions and at the local level. 

We need the province to commit to providing municipalities with a permanent additional revenue stream. That could be from an increased portion of the commercial tax, portions of taxes from cannabis sales, liquor sales, HST or other sources.

RVS: In Woodstock, the overall assessment went up by nine per cent, and then you raised taxes by 5 cents per $100 of assessment for the old town boundaries (Ward 4). You cited higher staffing, wage and policing costs in 2024 as primary reasons for the increase. What should taxpayers expect in the coming year, financially?

TJ: In 2023 we’ve hired an additional two net new positions. A new Director of Human Resources for one full new position; a new Director of Utility (splitting the combo role from Greg Stokes, who is now solely Director of Public Works instead of both) for a net new half position and a new CAO (splitting the role from former CAO Andrew Garnett who was doing both CAO and Director of Development and Planning) for a net new half position.

For 2024, we have budgeted for, but not yet hired, three WPF officer positions, a recreational coordinator role at the AYR Motor Centre (in the hiring process now), and we have budgeted for three seasonal labourers in Utility and three seasonal labourers in public works. Those positions would not be hired until April of this year. The details around those jobs are not yet solidified but the money is budgeted for them. 

The other contributing factors to the overall increase in wages in operating costs was an overall increase in wages for 2023 of three per cent for all employees, and another three per cent for all employees in January of 2024, both of which were previously agreed upon. There are no further automatic increases set for the future. 

NOTE: The River Valley Sun also asked Mayor Jones about resolving ongoing problems at Woodstock’s second water source. The mayor said she hopes to make a public announcement as early as February addressing the problems, solutions and costs of resolving the well issue. 

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