Council Agenda Preview – March 19, 2019

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A couple of quick notes and then my thoughts on selected agenda items.
1. The next post in the Amalgamation series will be a bit later than hoped. I continue to do research and don’t want to bother municipalities for more detailed information given their involvement in budget preparations.
2. What costs more: money foregone as income, or the same amount paid out as expenses? They seem the same to me, but other municipalities act as though they think the Town of Parry Sound, by hosting almost all of the non-taxable charitable and not-for-profit, organizations in the district breaks even. It doesn’t. There is not only the incremental expense to the Town associated with these organizations it is the assessment revenue lost on the land they occupy. A real-world example of the issues facing the Town is seen in Item 9.3.2.

4.4– Seguin Township. Donation of $10,000 towards Stockey Centre operating expenses. In my Amalgamation posts I did not acknowledge this donation. It doesn’t change the figures but it does reflect a positive sentiment on the part of Seguin that covers about 3% of the operating loss for the Stockey Centre.

9.1.1– Tender – Isabella Street Reconstruction. Ouch! The lowest tender came in at $600,000, almost 50%, above the budgeted amount. The difference will be paid with additional debentures.

9.1.2– Salt Dock Road Culvert payment. The parties have agreed to split the costs above the budgeted amount 50/50. That seems reasonable to me given the circumstances. Stuff happens.

9.2.1– Consent Application – B 04/2019 (PS) (L.U. Maughan Co. Ltd on behalf of The Barrie YMCA). The YMCA wants to sever a portion of their property for the development of residential properties. See the map at the bottom of the post for details about the location of the severed lot.

9.3.1– Pool & Wellness Centre report. This is a report that is interesting in the scope of communities involved. It’s very vague, but arguably a starting point. Refer to the full agenda for the Draft Committee Structure. All in or no deal, in my opinion.

9.3.2– DSSAB pay property taxes for HUB. The amount would be $78,000 annually. If the Town of Parry Sound is to support affordable housing for the district it needs to be appropriately compensated for the services it provides. I agree 100% with the benefits of affordable housing and the need for the Town not to be left alone to subsidize these necessary resources.

9.3.3– Budget Meeting Schedule. Okay we have a schedule. April 2ndfor a general overview of the budget and April 9thfor a Special Budget meeting commencing at 6:00 pm.

10.3.1– By-law for Council. Remuneration that compensates for lost expenses.

Agenda Items (Abridged)

Correspondence

4.1– Gurneth Hoddy, President, Parry Sound Seniors Club. Request for 2019 increased grant, for increased time limit to four hours for parking in the seniors area from Mary to Rosetta Street, and placing a seniors crossing sign near the club from Mary to Rosetta Street.

4.2– Nathan Beatty, Chair of Board of Directors, Beaconview Condominiums. Request for placement of no parking signs on Salt Dock Road adjacent to the private drive.

4.3– Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve. Request to adopt resolution to participate in Partners for Climate Protection, to appoint a representative to area wide initiative and make a financial contribution to support establishment of Committee Terms of Reference.

4.4– Seguin Township. Donation of $10,000 towards Stockey Centre operating expenses

Deputations

5.1– Susan Hrycyna, Brenda Ryan. DBA Downtown Beautification Plan.

Resolutions and Direction to Staff

9.1.1– Tender – Isabella Street Reconstruction. Resolution. That upon the recommendation of Triton Engineering Services Limited, Council award the tender for the reconstruction of Isabella Street from Tudhope Street to William Street to Weeks Construction Inc., in the amount of $1,989,503.78, including HST, this tender being the lowest of three (3) tenders received.

9.1.2– Salt Dock Road Culvert payment. Resolution 2019 – 008 (as postponed from February 5, 2019 Council Meeting) That Council accepts the report regarding the additional costs encountered at the Salt Dock Culvert Replacement Project, and the additional costs be taken from the Salt Dock Reserves.

9.2.1– Consent Application – B 04/2019 (PS) (L.U. Maughan Co. Ltd on behalf of The Barrie YMCA). Resolution. That a decision on Consent Application No. B 04/2019 (PS) (L.U. Maughan Co. Ltd on behalf of The Barrie YMCA) be deferred until an Official Plan Amendment and Zoning By-law Amendment has been adopted and approved.

9.3.1– Pool & Wellness Centre report. Resolution. That the Pool & Wellness Centre Report be received for information purposes.

9.3.2– DSSAB pay property taxes for HUB. Direction. That staff be directed to request the District Social Services Administration Board (DSSAB) pay to the Town of Parry Sound an amount equivalent to the amount of property taxes that would be payable each year by the HUB, beginning with 2018, had they not received 100% property tax exemption from MPAC.

9.3.3– Budget Meeting Schedule. Direction. That the dates as set out in this report for the 2019 budget deliberations be approved, including a Special Meeting on April, 9, 2019, and that staff update the Town’s Web site and Council calendar accordingly.

9.5.1– Bottled Water Reduction. Resolution. Whereas water is essential for human life to exist on earth, and access to clean drinkable water should be a basic human right, and water has been commodified by the sale of bottled water; and
Whereas Canada is a participant to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change; and
Whereas the United Nations has called on all countries to reduce green house gas emissions; and
Whereas single use plastics are significant items of unnecessary waste that damage our environment; and
Whereas Canada as a country and all of the provinces and territories are not likely to reach our targets to reduce green house gas emissions by 2030; and
Whereas many scientists and environmental advocates are asking us to end the fossil fuel-based economy as soon as possible;
Be it Resolved That the Town of Parry Sound will undertake a review/audit in 2019 of the Town facilities to identify areas where the use of municipal water can be further optimized, and the use of bottled water can be reduced or eliminated wherever possible; and
Further that a policy be developed to promote the use of municipal drinking water in the Town; and
Further be it resolved That the Town of Parry Sound will encourage our immediate neighbours in West Parry Sound Area to do the same; and
Further be it resolved that the Town of Parry Sound will forward this motion as an aspirational objective to the following partners: City of Quinte West who passed the original resolution on the topic; the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO), all other similar provincial and territorial organizations in Canada, all Premiers and the Prime Minister and the leaders of all Provincial and Federal Parties in Canada with the request that they enact legislation to do the same.

By-laws

10.2.1– Load Charge By-law. By-law 2019 – 6901. Being a By-law to amend by-laws 99-4113 The Heavy Load By-law and 2010-5408 Fees and Service Charges, and repeal 99-4114 The Water and Sewer Load Charge bylaw.

10.3.1– By-law for Council remuneration. By-law 2019 – 6902. Being a By-Law with respect to remuneration and expenses for members of Council and Local Boards.

Council Agenda Abridged Minutes – March 5, 2019

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Here is an abridged version of the March 5thminutes of the Town of Parry Sound council meeting. I’ve highlighted the more important items in my opinion. Refer to the full minutes that are available at the town’s website for additional information – http://www.parrysound.ca.

The only interesting item from my perspective is Item 9.3.1. I am not surprised by the decision of Council to top themselves up with the change in deductibility of expenses. I am also not surprised that Councillors Borneman and Keith voted against the top up. They have a sense of duty, but the top up is appropriate in my opinion. The two new councillors and the mayor voted in favour of a report on providing health/dental benefits. It perhaps represents the different personal situations of council members. Some may have these benefits as part of their current or past employment. I think that council should be compensated for the considerable work they do, but it shouldn’t become a job.

I am not providing timing links to the available video of meeting as there really wasn’t anything of note beyond what was included in the minutes.

Questions of Staff

3.2.1 – In response to Councillor McCann’s inquiry about how frequently the fibre bins get emptied as they were full when he was at the Transfer Station recently, Director of Public Works Peter Brown indicated that typically they get removed before they reach or exceed capacity, and that a compactor is being purchased which should help to increase capacity in the future.
3.2.2 – In response to Councillor Keith’s inquiry as to whether there is a plan for snow clearance around various fire hydrants, including having nearby residents participate in clearing them, Director of Public Works Peter Brown indicated that water treatment plant staff typically do the snow clearing, they have been out a couple of times already this year but typically don’t start the snow clearing until it stops snowing. A piece of equipment has been purchased which aids in more efficient clearing around the hydrants. Mr. Brown noted additionally, that “we’re experiencing residents who bury the hydrants” through snow-blowing and asked that residents cooperate by not doing this.
3.2.3 – In response to Councillor Borneman’s inquiry as to the status of the fog testing report as a result of work done last autumn to determine whether and/or where storm water is entering the sanitary system, Mr. Brown noted that the report is on his desk and he hopes to bring it to Council next month, after he has further opportunity to review it.

Correspondence

4.1 – Ed Horba, Project Manager, Transportation, GHD. Noise By-law exemption request for Highway 400 work at Parry Sound. Referred to By-law Enforcement Officer for follow-up.
4.3 – Marsha Rivers, CEO, Belvedere Heights. 2019 Municipal Levy for Belvedere Heights. Referred to Manager of Accounting.
4.4 – Rebecca Pollock, Chair, Parry Sound Active Transportation. Request to allocate in the 2019 budget, monies to determine the feasibility of applying the road diet concept to Parry Sound’s arterial roads, including any necessary engineering and planning reviews. Referred to Director of Public Works and copied to Manager of Accounting.
4.5 – Leah Harris, Town resident. Request that after-hours water service bills to shut off water be removed from their account. Referred to Manager of Accounting

Deputations

5.1 – John Cochrane, Near North District School Board Trustee Zone 4. Update on new Parry Sound High School. John Cochrane Vice Chair of Near North District School Board, accompanied by Jay Aspin, Chair NNDSB; and Craig Myles, Superintendent of Education, addressed Council with respect to Parry Sound High School, noting that the current school is 68 years old and in need of replacing. Mr. Cochrane recommended that Council pass a resolution urging the Education Ministry to quickly approve the plan, get shovels in the ground this spring, with copies to Premier Ford, Minister Lisa Thompson, Vic Fedeli and local MPP Norm Miller.
5.2 – Becky Pollock, Executive Director, Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve. Proposed “Community Energy Plan” for the biosphere region. Becky Pollock, accompanied by David Bywater, Environmental Scientist with GBBR, addressed Council with a presentation entitled Towards a Regional Energy Plan & Community Climate Action. Ms. Pollock reported on climate change indicators on Georgian Bay over the last 50 to 100 years, resulting in more frequent and severe weather events such as floods, droughts, storms and forest fires causing damage to infrastructure, a psychological toll, and increased insurance rates. Ms. Pollock advocated working together to create corporate and community wide energy plans with the Town, Townships and First Nations throughout the area to combat this and referred to the Partners for Climate Protection (PCP) program, developed by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), as an appropriate standardized framework to use. Ms. Pollock described the steps of using the PCP framework and requested that Council consider the following:
1. appoint a representative to the regional effort;
2. sign on to the PCP resolution;
3. provide seed funding of up to $5,000.
Ms. Pollock concluded noting that these requests were provided in a letter to Council, as follow-up to the deputation.

Ratification of Matters from Closed Agenda

7.1. – EMS Advisory Committee appointments. Resolution 2019 – 016. That the Council of the Town of Parry Sound approve the nomination to the EMS Advisory Committee of; Mayor Jamie McGarvey, Scott Sheard, Rod Osborne, Kim Dixon, Maurice Turgeon, Lyle Hall and Cathy Still for the current term of Council. Carried

Resolutions and Direction to Staff

9.1.1 – 2018 Water System Summary Report. Carried

9.1.2 – RFP – Biosolids Haulage & Beneficial Re-use/Disposal. Carried

9.1.3 – 2019 Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiatives Annual Conference. Carried

9.2.1 – Revision to 2018 Land Ambulance Budget. Carried

9.3.1 – Council Members 1/3 Tax Exemption. That staff be directed to implement remuneration increases of elected officials retroactive to January 1, 2019, as recommended in this report and consistent with Council direction as set-out in By-law 2015 – 6554.
Recorded vote requested by Councillor Keith
Councillor V. Backman Yes
Councillor P. Borneman No
Councillor R. Burden Yes
Councillor B. Horne Yes
Councillor B. Keith No
Councillor D. McCann Yes
Mayor J. McGarvey Yes
Direction Carried 5 – 2
Direction for Staff Follow-up: That staff bring Council group benefits options (health/dental) for consideration to a future Council meeting.
Recorded vote requested by Councillor Keith
Councillor V. Backman Yes
Councillor P. Borneman No
Councillor R. Burden Yes
Councillor B. Horne No
Councillor B. Keith No
Councillor D. McCann No
Mayor J. McGarvey Yes
Direction Defeated 3 – 4
Direction for Staff Follow-up:
That upon approval of Council direction regarding remuneration increases retroactive to January 1, 2019, staff present a comprehensive compensation by-law for Council members to the next Council meeting. Carried

9.3.2 – Request for Faster Response time from Provincial & Federal Grant Funding Authorities. Carried

9.3.3 – Director of Finance Recruitment – Sub-Committee of Council Appointments. That pursuant to the Town hiring policy, the Sub-Committee for the hiring of the Director of Finance position be composed of the following Members of Council:
Councillor Borneman
Councillor Horne
Councillor Keith
Carried

9.4.1 – Motorized Mobile Ice Cream Truck. Carried

9.5.1 – “Right to Approve” Landfill Developments. Carried

By-laws

10.2.1 – Appointment of Will Williamson as a Building Inspector. Passed, Signed and Sealed this 5th day of March, 2019.

10.2.2 – Site Plan Development Agreement with Infrastructure Ontario (OPP Station – 1 North Road). Passed, Signed and Sealed this 5th day of March, 2019.

 

West Parry Sound Amalgamation – Part 4 (Crude Models)

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It’s time to take a look at how the amalgamation numbers shake out. Step One – take a deep breath. Step Two – be patient as you review the numbers. There are two scenarios, each of which are presented with two different sets of assumptions. These are not the final figures but are the easiest to model and understand. There will be additional scenarios presented in the next post that hopefully better model what amalgamation might mean for the individual municipalities. But, let’s start simple and work from there.

Key Assumptions and Descriptors:

  1. There are two basic scenarios, Scenario 1A with the five core municipalities – Carling, McDougall, McKellar, Parry Sound and Seguin. Scenario 2A has the core five municipalities plus Archipelago. This second scenario is a change in direction from an earlier post where I said I would not include the Archipelago. My decision to include a scenario with Archipelago results from my look at the Muskoka model. In Muskoka there are very urban and very non-urban centres, not unlike West Parry Sound. During the amalgamation process it was obviously felt that Muskoka Lakes was not that different and would benefit from, and contribute to, the district.
  2. Each of Scenario 1 and 2 are a simple summing of the tax revenues for all of the municipalities divided by the total assessment for the 5 and 6 municipality scenarios. This is a very crude first estimate and sure to raise complaints in a couple of the municipalities. Additional scenarios, 1B and 2B, are presented showing the impact of an overall 10% savings with amalgamation. I suspect that this is too optimistic but is worth sharing.
  3. The numbers presented include both the dollar and percentage increases and decreases for each scenario. There are enough figures provided to permit the interested person to work out their own numbers or simply check mine.
  4. The scenarios present the Residential tax rate figures, but the percentages can generally be applied to the Commercial and Industrial tax rates. To simplify the tables, a single $250,000 assessment is used for calculation purchases. For a $500,000 assessment just multiply by 2. For those lucky folks in Seguin, Carling and Archipelago multiply by 5, 10, 20 or 50 as appropriate.
  5. The scenarios also include Education taxes which have the same rate for all municipalities. Education taxes are a much higher proportion of total taxes in Seguin, Carling and Archipelago than the other municipalities.

Scenario 1A

This scenario is a simple add and divide exercise. All of the property tax revenues for Carling, McDougall, McKellar, Parry Sound and Seguin were added up and divided by the sum of the assessments for these municipalities. Here are the numbers.

Quick Comments:

  1. I can imagine the howls coming from Seguin and they are deafening. On the other hand, the people in Carling are saying – okay, that’s much better than I imagined. In Parry Sound the response is “YES”. The folks in McKellar are voicing complaints, but what’s new?
  2. This is the crudest of the calculations and does not properly reflect what would be seen with a well thought out amalgamation process. Future scenarios will try and model something more sophisticated that takes account of service levels.

Scenario 1B

This scenario is the same simple add and divide exercise. All of the property tax revenues for Carling, McDougall, McKellar, Parry Sound and Seguin were added up and the total was reduced by 10% to reflect some sort of amalgamation savings. As was the case for the previous scenario this figure was divided by the sum of the assessments for these municipalities.

Quick Comments:

  1. Okay, these numbers are a bit better for Seguin, but doubtless still unacceptable to a municipality that is addicted to low tax rates. McKellar ends up pretty much neutral and there are savings in Carling, McDougall, and Parry Sound.
  2. Scenario 1B sees that $250,000 property in Seguin paying an additional $342 per year. That’s a 26% increase over the current property tax rate. The same assessed Parry Sound property owner is seeing a $1,900 decrease.

Scenario 2A

This scenario uses the same approach as 1A and adds up the property tax revenues for Carling, McDougall, McKellar, Parry Sound, and Seguin plus Archipelago which is then divided by the sum of the assessments for these municipalities.

Quick Comments:

  1. Now the folks in Archipelago are howling and the Seguin folks are not any happier with only $100 shaved off the scenario without Archipelago. The folks in Carling, McDougall and Parry Sound all have smiles, some bigger than others. The folks in McKellar are sulking.

Scenario 2B

This scenario is the same as Scenario 2A with a 10% savings in the total amalgamated expenses as discussed earlier.

Quick Comments:

  1. The Seguin tax increase under Scenario 2B is $250 for a $250,000 property, about a 0.1% increase on the basis of the property value and 19% more than the pre amalgamation taxes. Archipelago goes up $200 or 15% for the same property. Carling and McDougall see not insignificant decreases and Parry Sound can’t believe their luck. McKellar is seeing a savings for the first time under an amalgamation scenario.

The Fine Print

Did I mention that these are crude estimates and will benefit from some tinkering? One of the obvious areas of tinkering has to do with garbage service. I’ll try to adjust for that in the next set of scenarios. There are also other adjustments that would seem to be reasonable to include. Overall, I’m not sure that these adjustments will make the people in Archipelago and Seguin much happier, but I think there is another way to make the increased cost of amalgamation worth considering for all municipalities. I’ll get to that two posts from now, #6 in this series.

McKellar, I am teasing you for your general demeanor when it comes to cooperation with area municipalities. Much of that attitude was seen in the behaviour of the two previous councils. How can we forget the entertaining coverage of council meetings and ‘Business Cardgate’ by the North Star? I am hopeful that the new council will take a more outward looking approach to regional cooperation. Reputation rests not on what you are now, or what you hope to be. It rests on what you have done. That can be changed for the better.

Supplemental Reading

So why does Parry Sound have such a large property tax burden in proportion to its assessment? There are some reasons worth understanding or considering.

Parry Sound Shot Itself in the Foot

  1. One of the biggest costs for Parry Sound is associated with the losses arising from the operations of the Bobby Orr Community Centre and the Stockey Centre. Together they account for about $600,000 or 5% of the annual tax bill. The Stockey Centre underwent renovations, roof and siding, last year that amounted to about $1.2 million. The Bobby Orr Community Centre had roof repairs that exceeded $100,000 and an expansion will cost close to $1 million. (I’m plugging in these numbers from memory. Feel free to send me a note with corrections.) Personally, I only get into the Bobby Orr Community Centre once a year for the Mayor’s Levee. I don’t think that I have been inside the Stockey Centre, or on the deck, in two years. But it costs me $250 annually in taxes to support these facilities. The Town would be better off selling both facilities for $1 and taking the savings. What would that do for the local and larger community? I suspect that West Parry Sound would be poorer without these facilities. There wouldn’t be the Festival which appeals to many of the seasonal residents in the surrounding municipalities. Do we need really another Pink Floyd or Eagles ‘note for note’ album performance? People must like it because they keep coming back, again and again. What about the community events hosted at the Stockey Centre? Parry Sound effectively subsidizes people who will be attending the upcoming Gordon Lightfoot concert. It promises to be a remarkable show in an intimate setting and without the added cost and time to travel to a Sudbury, Barrie or Toronto performance? Could locals even get decent tickets to these events in another urban centre? Do events like the visiting bonspiels, the Hockey Canada event or even local minor hockey cover their true costs? Of course not, it’s the right thing to do for the town and the larger community.
  2. The big box stores were effectively subsidized by Parry Sound. It seemed like a better deal at the time than it was. When push came to shove the town was obliged to take on considerable unbudgeted infrastructure expenses for services that support the much larger West Parry Sound community. And in the last couple of years these big box stores won a court case provincially that reduced their assessments by about a third. The difference in tax revenue directly hit the Parry Sound tax rates. Our neighbours? They just tell us how lucky we are to have them patronizing these stores.

For the Greater Good

Remember that sign as you head south on 400 and head into Simcoe County? “For the Greater Good” It should be Parry Sound’s motto.

  1. As I have noted earlier Parry Sound hosts many if not all of the local social service facilities. These institutions do not pay any local property taxes yet expect a full suite of services. More importantly, they occupy high value land that could be generating tax revenue to support services.
  2. Hosting schools is not without local Town of Parry Sound cost. In addition to occupying what is often prime real estate and not paying property taxes, these facilities use town resources and incur town supported expenses. The town is obliged to do extensive review to approve the building permits for these public facilities. The costs are not covered by any fees that might be charged. More importantly, these facilities often require infrastructure upgrades that are the responsibility of the town. The recently built William Beatty School presented the town with many infrastructure costs that were not budgeted or covered by the school board. And the conversion of the old school to affordable housing and a community hub has come with surprises in addition to the taxpayer infrastructure costs that came with the conversion. Now the organization behind the property renovation is petitioning to be exempted from property taxes. Their logic follows the thread that the property was not previously taxed as a school so it shouldn’t be now. With that type of logic I would be against any further efforts to provide public low income housing in Parry Sound. Low income housing like many other social issues is not a Parry Sound issue, it is a district issue, but as usual Parry Sound bears the brunt of the administration and infrastructure costs. And it trickles down to the taxpayer.
  3. Parry Sound is also home to the District Court House. That honour comes with a $50,000 or so annual bill for OPP protection. This is a district resource but a Parry Sound cost.
  4. Parry Sound also provides management oversight at the staff and council levels for district wide services such as EMS.
  5. And then there is the West Parry Sound District Hospital. They don’t pay property taxes yet require town resources. I would imagine that Parry Sound provided considerable infrastructure support at no cost to the hospital when it was built. Another rub for me at least is that most of the high-end folks working at the hospital, let’s say more than 90%, do not live and pay taxes in Parry Sound but rather support the tax base of the neighbouring municipalities. I don’t blame them. Why pay higher taxes and have to deal with the noise and the stink of a railway close by?

Possibilities

Four ideas that come to mind that can help address the imbalance of support for services that impact the whole West Parry Sound community.

  1. Go forward with amalgamation. It not only seems a reasonable way to address current imbalances, but it provides the basis to make the whole district better by providing for a shared vision of a larger community.
  2. Tack on a 1% salary levy to folks who work in Parry Sound that would be remitted to Parry Sound. If you pay property taxes in Parry Sound that amount would be deducted from your property taxes. If you live in one of the area municipalities you would not have the deduction, unless your municipality wanted to subsidize it. That’s the situation I faced when I lived in one township and worked in another in Pennsylvania. The tax was used by the township I worked in to pay for the required infrastructure to support the businesses. The 1% tax was deducted at source.
  3. Add 1% to the local sales tax for purchases in Parry Sound. This would be a relatively minor cost and would be remitted to Parry Sound. Heck, just 1% of the purchases at the LCBO and the Beer Store would probably go a long way to helping cover the many infrastructure costs assumed by Parry Sound.
  4. Add 1% to the bill for local services. That might range from tax preparation to massages to dental services. Would people start driving to Bracebridge to save 1% for a massage or an eye check up?

It’s always fun to ride for free or at a discount. But someone has to pay the bill. Right now that’s Parry Sound residents and businesses. If the community at large is to prosper we need to have everyone paying their fair share.

In the next post I look at the impact of adjusting the numbers presented earlier to account for differing service levels.

West Parry Sound Amalgamation – Part 3 (Muskoka Model)

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I’m glad that I didn’t try and squeeze the Muskoka Model into the last post. The District Municipality of Muskoka (Muskoka) presents a complex model of amalgamation, at least to this rookie. I will provide a superficial overview of the tax rate structure for Muskoka with the hope of better understanding how amalgamation might be implemented between Carling, McDougall, McKellar, Parry Sound and Seguin.

This post is neither a graduate thesis nor a consulting (paid) project so I will stick to top level assessments and comments and not bother with detailed research. I am comfortable that this first level examination will provide generally valid observations.

The Basics

Muskoka is composed of district municipalities.

Table 1 – Muskoka Demographics and Assessments

There are all sorts of interesting observations that can be made with this limited dataset. The key points that jump out at me are:

  1. This is a diverse municipality in terms of population and assessments.
  2. Individually the property assessment values of the individual urban centres are on a par with the more rural and cottage areas despite a considerable population difference.
  3. And then there is Muskoka lakes with 11% of the district municipality population and 37% of the assessment value. That has some similarities with the West Parry Sound District.
  4. Wow – Muskoka has almost $25 billion is assessments.

Well that’s a start and it’s time to slice up the data. I could overwhelm you right now and post up a simplified summary of the Muskoka Tax Rates. But I did not do that. You can find the tables at the end of the post for those who don’t believe what follows or want to do their own analysis.

Muskoka Tax Rates

Muskoka has separate tax rate schedules for all six of the district municipalities. These schedules have twelve different property classes. (The simplified summary only lists the three most important classes.) In addition to different tax rates for six municipalities there are five schedules for different services that are provided/taxed by Muskoka. Not all properties in all municipalities are subject to all tax schedules. (Yes, the details are complex but it’s not too hard to get a general grasp of the intent.)

Table 2 – Tax Rates and Applicability, Muskoka

General Tax Rates & Levies

In seems that all of the properties in all district municipalities are subject to, and pay, the same tax rates for general services and the hospital capital fund. The latter is an interesting concept for those of us who pay Parry Sound taxes and effectively subsidize a hospital that benefits all area residents and cottagers. It amounts to about $400,000 annually in Muskoka. It has been suggested to me that because of the area residents/cottagers we enjoy a better hospital than if they weren’t present. (Yup, because you have kids you get a government subsidy. Well, that covers their costs and makes life so much easier doesn’t it?)

The net/net is that if you have a home in Bracebridge or a cottage on Lake Muskoka your basic tax rate is the same regardless of the level of general services, and value, you believe you are receiving.

Waste Management Tax Rates & Levies

There are differences in Muskoka when it comes to the add on services, water, sewer and garbage. All properties in all municipalities pay for garbage services. But the waste management tax rate varies in terms of what municipality the property is located. The rate is highest in Bracebridge and is a bit lower in Gravenhurst (-10%) and Huntsville (-5%). Why? It’s probably an issue of service levels. The garbage tax rate in Georgian Bay is about the same as in Huntsville. For Lake of Bays and Muskoka Lakes the garbage rate is about 40% of that in the highest municipality, Bracebridge. Again, that probably represents different service levels. The important thing to note is that irrespective of the tax rate for waste management services, all properties in all municipalities pay for this service at a higher or lower tax rate.

Urban Areas A – Water Services

Things are different when it comes to water services. Water supply it seems is not available to all properties in all municipalities. That means some properties do not have a water assessment associated with their properties. For example, even in Bracebridge only a third of the assessed value of properties are taxed for water services. The figure is much lower in the nonurban municipalities. In Lake of Bays about 1% of the assessment is subject to water taxes. For all of Muskoka only 17% of assessed value is subject to this tax.

Urban Areas A – Sewer Services

A similar situation is seen with sewer services although it is not exactly the same. Why, I’m not sure and won’t investigate it further. The net/net is that if you have sewer service you pay in your tax bill. It’s also likely that the properties that receive Muskoka water and sewer services also pay for consumption. I can’t imagine that a car wash would be flat rated. In total about 15% of the assessed value in Muskoka is subject to sewer services taxes. It’s important to note that the Sewer Services rate, where applicable, is the most expensive of the services except for the General Taxes & Levy. In Bracebridge the sewer rate is 73% of the general levy rate. That is remarkably high and probably reflects the cost of replacing decaying infrastructure.

Muskoka Rates Summarized

With an understanding of what might be included in a property tax bill it’s time to look at the rates. These will be very top-level figures. Remember that tax rates are assigned by property class. These property class tax rates are the same in all municipalities when it comes to General Taxes and Hospital Capital Funding. For this discussion we will look only at the Residential, Commercial and Industrial property classes.

Table 3 – Muskoka General Tax Rates & Levies (2017)

Some quick analysis of the above table. Residential properties account for 93% of the Assessments and the same proportion of the taxes collected within rounding errors. This is reflected in part by the small premium, about 9%, charged to Commercial and Industrial properties. The discrepancy in the rounded figures, if you are wondering, is accounted for by the contribution of the other classes not included in the table above, for example Landfill, Pipelines, Farmlands and Managed Forest. It’s also worth noting that the Commercial and Industrial rates are the same.

Overall Muskoka Tax Rates

It’s possible to put together a highest and lowest tax rate for properties in Muskoka. This is done by adding the highest rates for a property that would be fully serviced (Water, Garbage and Sewer) and comparing it with a property that only is required to pay the General Tax Rate, Hospital Capital and Garbage (at the lowest rate).

Muskoka Tax Rates 2017

Table 4 – Highest Rate Possible (Bracebridge, 2017)

Table 5 – Lowest Rate Possible with Full Services (Muskoka Lakes, 2017)

Table 6 – Lowest Rate Possible with No Services (Muskoka Lakes, 2017)

The tables above summarize the tax rates depending on the services received. They define the high, the low and a middle scenario. It is possible to be located where there are no water or sewer services and that makes a huge difference on the tax bill. Depending on where the property is located the waste tax rate is higher or lower, but there is always a charge.

Total Tax Rates – Muskoka Versus Selected West Parry Sound Municipalities

The obvious next step is to compare these rates with those for the various municipalities outlined in the previous posts. In the case of the West Parry Sound municipalities the tax rates are what they are and are applied to all properties depending on class. The services provided for each municipality are defined by the municipalities themselves. The real tangible difference in terms of service concerns waste management. Parry Sound has curbside pickup once a week and this cost is included in the base tax rate. The other municipalities offer ‘bag and drag’ service to the local municipal waste facility. In theory at least, Parry Sound does not include charges for water and sewer services in the tax rate. These are accounted for separately and charged directly to the user. I’m not sure if there isn’t some ‘bleed’ into the tax rate. But a residence with a $200,000 assessment would pay about $1,300 per year for water and sewer service above the tax bill. That equals an effective rate of about 0.00650. For a $400,000 assessment it’s .00325 and for an $800,000 assessment it’s .00162. In Muskoka you pay a fixed rate on your assessment not a flat fee. Should a property assessed at $800,000 pay more for water and sewer services than a $100,000 property if they use the same service amounts? I’ll let you think about that.

Other than the items noted above the rates are broadly comparable with the understanding that the Parry Sound rates are even higher in comparison to Muskoka if you add in the water and sewer bills. Note – none of these tax rates include any Education Taxes.

Table 7 – Tax Rate Comparison, Muskoka and Selected West Parry Sound (2017)

Okay there you have it. Some quick comments:

  1. Parry Sound has by far the highest overall tax rates for Residential properties. It’s not even close. It’s the same case for Commercial properties. With Industrial properties Parry Sound is not that far from some other West Parry Sound municipalities but well above Muskoka .
  2. Seguin and Archipelago Residential tax rates aren’t that much higher than the lowest Muskoka rates, about 10% more. I assume that these are often seasonal cottage, albeit $10 million cottage, type properties. The same is true for Commercial and Industrial properties in the lowest tax areas, all of which probably enjoy the same service levels.
  3. I wonder how much the highest rates in Muskoka, presumably for the urban centres, are moderated by the high assessment value of the non-urban properties. The non-urban municipalities in Muskoka account for 65% of the total Muskoka residential assessment base. Since there is only one rate for all Muskoka properties regardless of their municipality it is possible to imagine that urban properties might well have a 20-30% higher tax rate if they were required to fund themselves.

Enough of the foreplay. In the next post we’ll start looking at amalgamation in West Parry Sound. After looking at all the numbers for Muskoka I think that I’ll put together a series of scenarios. It’s probably not as simple as adding all the numbers together, adding in a little bit of cost savings and dividing by the total amalgamated assessment value. But I’ll probably start with that to get everyone in the area who doesn’t live in Parry Sound hot and frothy. (It’s cold out there.)

Here are the more detailed Muskoka tax rates noted earlier. (Click on the image for a larger, easier to read, version.)

 

West Parry Sound Amalgamation – Part 2 (Analysis)

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This post follows up Part 1 which laid down much of the financial information required to understand what amalgamation might mean for the municipalities of West Parry Sound. Here is a link to the first post. The intent of this second post is to add a little more colour to the numbers along with some general observations and commentary.

In response to a few comments to the first post I want to categorically state that it is not my intention to make a case for, or against, amalgamation. What I am hoping to do is provide a framework for better understanding the implications of amalgamation. It’s bit like a pre-Brexit analysis. In the case of what was to become called Brexit I believe too many people voted without the benefit of any real analysis or understanding of the implications for and against. Their vote was mostly based on whether they held a ‘screw the EU’ or an ‘EU is our future’ mindset based on their personal experience, advertising and ‘gut feelings’.

I am in a situation where I understand the Town of Parry Sound budget reasonably well and the underlying expenses. I am hard pressed to find fault in the budget decisions that Council has made that underlie the current Parry Sound tax rates. The cost is what it is, and I am able to afford my property taxes. Any reduction in taxes through amalgamation would not have an impact on my quality of life. I do understand that this is not the case for many others in Parry Sound or one of the other communities.

Okay, let’s look at the numbers and perhaps tease out some meaning.

Tax Rates

In the previous post I laid out the more important tax rates for the municipalities. I won’t go into details about the relative tax levels of the municipalities. The Town of Parry Sound has the highest overall tax rates by far, with Seguin and Archipelago having the lowest. Perhaps more relevant is understanding the property class tax rates set by individual municipalities.

Table 1 below is an expanded version of Table 1 from the first post (Part 1). It provides a summary of the various municipal property and educational tax rates and the premium charged to the Commercial and Industrial classes relative to the Residential Rate. For example, in the case of Carling the Industrial Property Tax Rate is 2.6 times that of the Residential Property Tax Rate.

Table 1 – Residential, Commercial and Industrial Tax Rates (Selected West Parry Sound District Municipalities 2017)

Table 2 – Residential, Commercial and Industrial Tax Rates Factors (Selected West Parry Sound District Municipalities 2017)

Note: Residential Tax Rate is assigned a value of 1 for each of the municipalities. Comparisons are only valid within a single municipality and tax rate class.

I am not familiar with the details of what limitations municipalities have in assigning taxation rates by class. I recall discussions at Parry Sound Council where it was mentioned that there were provincial guidelines on how much the various property class rates could be adjusted. Nonetheless, it seems that all the municipalities consistently place higher tax rates, Property and Education, on Commercial (i.e., Walmart, Fireplace & Leisure Centre…) and Industrial (i.e., Connor industries, Shaw-Almex …) properties in comparison with Residential properties.

Commercial Property Tax Rates

The premiums for Commercial Property Tax Rates vary from a low of 1.1x in Seguin and Archipelago to a high of 1.9x in McKellar versus the Residential Rate in that municipality. An even larger premium is seen with Education Rates which range from a low of 1.4x in McDougall to a high of 4.8x in Parry Sound. Combined, the Property and Education Rate premiums for the Commercial Property tax rates vary from a low of 1.9x in Carling, Seguin and Archipelago to a high of 3.1x in McKellar.

Industrial Property Tax Rates

The premiums for Industrial tax rates relative to the Residential Rates vary from a low of 1.1x in Archipelago to a high of 2.6x in Carling and McDougall. The Education Tax Rates premiums for Industrial Properties range from a low of 3.7x in Parry Sound to a high of 7.8x in Seguin. The combined rate premiums range from a low of 1.8x in Parry Sound to a high of 4.1x in Seguin.

What these differences mean is hard to understand without some sense of intent. Here are some thoughts:

Carling and McDougall – tax rates seem to be much more favourable for Commercial rather than Industrial properties. Is this an intentional attempt to encourage Industrial businesses to look to other area municipalities to establish their businesses? It’s not clear to me how properties in the industrial park in Carling are taxed. They may well enjoy some tax benefits or reduced costs for land and or services.

McKellar – the tax rates for Industrial and Commercial properties are essentially the same. The overall McKellar Industrial Tax Rate is the lowest in the area with the exception of Archipelago, which isn’t part of the amalgamation scenario and obviously offers many fewer amenities.

Parry Sound – the tax rates for Commercial is among the lowest in relation to the Residential Property Tax Rates at 2.0x. The Industrial Tax Rate is the lowest at 1.8 times the Residential Property Tax Rate. Given that the Parry Sound tax rates are so much higher than all the other municipalities this lower premium is of no real competitive significance. The Commercial Rate for Parry Sound is almost three times that of Carling and Seguin and twice that of McDougall. This may help explain the apparent interest of businesses to establish a commercial presence in Seguin on the outskirts of Parry Sound. A $1 million property would pay on average about $10,000 less in property and education taxes annually and still be within walking distance of the south end big box centres. With respect to Industrial Tax Rates, Parry Sound actually has a tax rate comparable to that of McDougall and an overall property and education tax rate about 25% higher than the other municipalities, with the exception of Archipelago. This may explain some of the attraction of industrial businesses to locate in Parry Sound if they require certain services. A $1 million assessment would only cost $5,000 per year more in Property and Education Taxes in Parry Sound relative to other municipalities.

Seguin – with the lowest Residential Tax Rates in the area, excepting Archipelago, it either is seemingly discouraging industrial development with its much higher taxes on industrial properties (4x Residential Tax Rates), or attempting to have these businesses take some of the tax load off of residential property owners.

Property Tax and Municipality Population

So, how much Property Tax do the various municipalities collect as a function of the population they serve; their residents? In the case of Parry Sound the town actually ‘serves’ more people than the official population but that is a point not everyone would agree with, so I will raise it and let it rest in the same sentence.

Table 3 – Weighted Assessments, Property Tax Revenues and Population Figures (Selected West Parry Sound District Municipalities 2017)

Note: Numbers in this table are taken from Table 1 in Part 1 of this series. Sources and explanations can be found there.
1. “Population and Dwelling Count Highlight Tables, 2016 Census”. Statistics Canada. February 8, 2017. From Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_municipalities_in_Ontario) sourced 2019-03-04.
2. Calculated by dividing Property Tax Collected by Population.

There are some major differences in the tax collected by the various municipalities. On the low-end Parry Sound and McDougall collect about $1,500 in Property Taxes per resident to provide the necessary services. That figure increases by 70% when you get to McKellar’s and Seguin’s $2,700 per resident. There is then a large jump up to Carling’s $5,500 followed by a hop, skip and jump to reach Archipelago’s almost $21,000.

In some cases the differences can be accounted for the size of these municipalities and the relative lack of efficiency related to size. You still need one mayor, one CAO and so on to service a population of 1,100 or 6,000. You may pay these folks a bit less, but not one-sixth of the amount in Seguin or Parry Sound. That type of basic service cost does impact the smaller municipalities budgets. Another reason may be related to seasonal residents, the cottagers. These people still require services that aren’t accounted for in the official population count and obviously skew the per capita cost figures.

Attention though should be paid to where a municipality with a considerable seasonal population under invests in a particular budget area as calculated using the permanent resident basis (Table 3). Assigning seasonal residents a one half or one quarter equivalent weighting would certainly change the results. I may do that type of analysis in a separate post. I can imagine the results but have not yet run the numbers.

What is obvious is the efficiency with which Parry Sound and McDougall are operated and the benefits of urbanization. For all of the grief that Parry Sound receives for its higher taxes it seems to put its tax revenues to good work whether by keeping expenses low or capturing revenue other than through property taxes. I regularly shake my head when people outside the Town of Parry Sound suggest that the Town is not properly managing its budget and that this is the cause of its higher taxes.

Enough of these numbers, let’s take a look at how the municipalities spend their money.

Expenditures by Line Item

It’s possible to look at the financial statements for the municipalities and get an idea of how their spending compares on some common line expenses. It’s not possible to compare their total budgets because in a number of cases Parry Sound collects and books revenues and expenses for the municipalities. This is the case of EMS and POA court costs. There are other line item expenses that are more directly comparable and are presented below.

Table 4 – Expense Lines (Selected West Parry Sound District Municipalities 2017)

  1. Estimated values for McDougall. 2017 Financial Statements not posted as of 2019-03-04. It’s possible that the McDougall figures are low on the Protection to Persons / Property expense line.

Table 5 – Expense Lines Normalized for Permanent Residents (Selected West Parry Sound District Municipalities 2017)

Let’s start with some general similarities:

  1. Transportation Services sees the municipalities spending similarly high amounts on a per resident basis to keep the roads patched and cleared in the winter. Parry Sound and McDougall being more urbanized see some savings in this area.
  2. Planning and Development expenses are pretty similar except for McDougall. Perhaps there is some overlap in responsibilities in McDougall, or there is no particular investment in this area.
  3. Protection to Persons / Property is mostly similar on a per resident basis. This is a little surprising as the McKellar and Seguin have significant seasonal populations and high-end properties that require both police and fire protection. McDougall may be unreasonably low in this category because OPP rates were revised in the last couple of years and McDougall’s financial statements are not available online as of this posting.

There are some differences:

  1. General Government sees Carling and McKellar on the high side on a per resident basis. This may well be a function of a relatively smaller resident population and the need to provide a full suite of services.
  2. Social and Family Services finds Parry Sound on the very low end of this expense on a per resident basis. This is largely due to the fact that these services are charged on a weighted assessment basis, not on population. Combined with Parry Sound’s larger population the per resident expense is low. This is offset is to a large extent by the many religious, cultural and social services located in Parry Sound that use Town services but are not subject to property taxes.
  3. Recreational and Cultural Services are the opposite with respect to Parry Sound where it spends almost five times what McDougall does on a per resident basis. Why spend the money if Parry Sound is a five minute drive away? McKellar and Carling spend more in this area but still only half of what Parry Sound does. Seguin with its many community hubs and public facilities falls only a little short of Parry Sound on a per resident basis.

Here are some additional thoughts on the actual expenditure amounts:

  1. General Government: in the case of Parry Sound the expenses include a number of unique services including POA Court that make the figures hard to compare at a top line level. In many cases these figures are offset by cost sharing or revenues.
  2. Protection to Persons / Property: this is largely a combination of OPP and Fire Department costs. Because Parry Sound is home to the area hospital, a number of government buildings and high-rise residences it is obliged to have more substantial fire management equipment. The last ladder truck was more than $1 million. OPP services are also higher because of the out of towners that come into Parry Sound and shoot the place up (kidding!). But if a Carling resident comes to Parry Sound and robs a local store or is caught buying or selling drugs that cost is borne by Parry Sound. I am not familiar with the Seguin budget and can only suggest the reasons for the higher costs are similar with the exception of the need to protect high rise developments, hospital and government and social service facilities.
  3. Social and Family Services: here we see Seguin carrying the larger load. This is the result of the cruel requirement, at least in the opinion of some in Seguin, that the Belvedere Heights expenses are apportioned on the basis of Weighted Assessment. That also explains the higher expenses paid by Carling. Here is one case where the seasonal residents are shouldering more of the load for the larger area and not just their slice of heaven.
  4. Recreational and Cultural Services: this is one area where the municipalities have some ability to make decisions on what is important. In the case of Parry Sound, the Bobby Orr Community Centre, the Waterfront, numerous parks, and the Stockey Centre represent a major portion of the expense. In the case of Seguin, the community maintains a number of community centres spread over the township. I believe that Parry Sound has done its part in this area and would be looking to the other municipalities to shoulder a larger portion of any costs for an aquatic centre. Even when apportioned for population Parry Sound is far ahead of area municipalities in providing community recreation and cultural services.
  5. Planning and Development; the only outlier here seems to be McDougall. I’m not sure if they don’t believe in active planning or the expense is budgeted under another line item. Looking a little closer it’s half of Carling’s and McKellar’s expenditures so perhaps it reflects the longer-range investment in their futures.

That’s more than enough for now. I was hoping to discuss the Muskoka tax rates as a model for how an urban, rural and seasonal residence community handles the obvious differences in service levels. You wouldn’t expect to have access water and sewer services on a lake in the backwoods of Muskoka. That’s where I will head with the next post.

West Parry Sound Amalgamation – Part 1 (The Numbers)

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This series of posts was stimulated by a question posed by friends of ours in McDougall during a dinner discussion. The host asked me why it would be in the interest of McDougall residents to consider amalgamation. My immediate response was that it wouldn’t be. Amalgamation I imagined would lead to a property tax increase of about 10-20% for McDougall residents. But that was a wild assed guess.

I have not seen any numbers on how amalgamation might impact the various municipalities. It is generally understood that amalgamation would benefit Town of Parry Sound residents but not the residents of the other municipalities. But there are no detailed numbers to look at. I wondered if I could do a rough pro forma estimate of the impact of amalgamation on property taxes based on the publicly available data. It turned out that I can, without too much difficulty. The results are surprising.

But as my wife would say, why get to the conclusion when there is a good story to tell. In this case I will present some of the background related to local municipal taxes. It really is hard to properly understand how amalgamation will impact the various municipalities without understanding where they are now in terms of tax rates and expenses.

Warning: if you don’t aren’t comfortable with numbers don’t venture further. There are lots of numbers and assumptions. Wait until the next post where there will be fewer numbers and some interpretation of what the numbers suggest.

Baseline Assumptions and Important Concepts

  1. The analysis of amalgamation tax rates includes: the Town of Parry Sound (Parry Sound), the Municipality of McDougall (McDougall), the Township of Seguin (Seguin), the Township of Carling (Carling) and the Township of McKellar (McKellar). The Township of the Archipelago (Archipelago) is not included. As a municipality the Archipelago is quite different than the five listed above. I also figure that they have enough old money in the municipality to wield an unreasonable amount of influence in Queen’s Park. Our local MPP has already gone on record as not supporting the Archipelago being part of any amalgamation. I have also not included the Township of Whitestone or the Township of McMurrich/Monteith because they are not only quite distant, but have better things to worry about.
  2. The tax rates used in this analysis are based on published 2017 figures. While the 2018 tax rates are public, the corresponding financial statements for the various municipalities are not yet available. Using 2017 as a basis provides relevant figures. For the most part tax rates have only increased a couple of percent in each of the municipalities.
  3. The assessment values for the various municipalities are Weighted Assessments. These are figures that are publicly disclosed, although not easy to find, and are based on 2017 values.
  4. From a tax rate calculation perspective the most important figure to consider is the Property Taxes collected by each of the municipalities. This is not the same figure as the budget figure for total revenue/expenses. The total revenue figure is the sum of property taxes collected plus grants (Provincial, Federal and other) plus revenues from charged services (building permits, water services and other). A municipality totes up all of the revenue it expects to receive from all sources other than Property Taxes and calculates the shortfall in revenue versus expenses. For example, the total municipality budget might be $18 million with $10 million coming from Grants, Charged Services and Other. That means the $8 million shortfall is collected from residents as Property Tax. This Property Tax is then assessed to property owners on the basis of the property assessed value and the tax rate. Each municipality has a variety of tax rates by property class. Residential property enjoys a lower tax rate for the same assessed property value than commercial or industrial properties. In total then the tax rate is adjusted in each municipality to bring in the needed revenue. In the example above this would amount to $8 million. This is why the Province’s cut in municipal grants has a major impact on tax rates. Any reduction in these grants obliges a municipality to either raise the Tax Rate, reduce expenses, or take on debt, to address the shortfall.
  5. A note about assessed property values. Property values are assessed by MPAC according to metrics that are supposed to be common for all municipalities in the province. A property with a 5,000 square foot home, two acres of land and 500 feet of waterfront should have the same general assessed value whether it is in the Archipelago, Seguin or on Lake Simcoe. There may be additional factors to consider but the idea is that there should be parity in property values based on inherent value of the property. This is important when setting tax rates. In the past it was possible for municipalities to play with both property assessments and tax rates. Currently municipalities have no control over what properties are valued at and can only adjust tax rates to meet their budget needs. This is particularly important for district type expenses, for example education and social services. These services are generally charged at the same rate, regardless of municipal tax rates, in each municipality based on MPAC assessed values. That means the Town of Parry Sound and Seguin and McKellar all have the same education tax rate for residential properties. There is however some difference in the tax rate according to class of property, for example residential, commercial and industrial. These numbers are shared in the analysis for the purpose of completeness.

Current (2017) Tax Rates for Select West Parry Sound Municipalities

This section is divided into three sections. Section One provides a summary of the 2017 Tax Rates for each of the municipalities. While there are a number of tax rate categories only the three most relevant categories are included. The full rates for each municipality can be easily found online. This section also provides the Education rates for each of the municipalities. This is relevant for the the third section where pro forma taxes by property value are presented for each of the municipalities. Tax Rates for the Archipelago are included for the purpose of comparison even though this municipality is not being considered in the standard amalgamation scenario.

Section Two summarizes the Weighted Assessments for each of the municipalities. Information on the Assessments by tax category is not readily available.

Section Three summarizes sample taxes for a variety of different property values for each of the municipalities and residential, commercial and industrial properties.

Section One – Current (2017) Tax Rates

Table 1 provides a summary of the tax rates by municipality and includes Property Tax and Education Tax Rates.

Table 1- 2017 Tax Rates by Municipality

 

Section Two – Weighted Assessments and Property Tax Collected (2017)

Table 2 – 2017 Weighted Assessments and Average Property Tax Rates

  1. Notes:
    Weighted Assessments are sourced from Belvedere Heights 2019 Levy Apportionment letter to Town of Parry Sound, February 27, 2019. Confirmed with Province of Ontario 2017 FIR Data by Year. (https://efis.fma.csc.gov.on.ca/fir/MultiYearReport/MYCIndex.html)
  2. Property Tax Collected figures were sourced from the individual municipality Financial Statements for 2017 as posted on their websites. These figures do not include Education Taxes. (Note: the Township of McDougall did not have their 2016 or 2017 Financial Statements posted online as of 2019-02-28 and had not posted the statements at the time of this post after being contacted about the oversight. Estimates were made on the basis of the posted 2015 and 2016 financial statements and posted budget information.)
  3. The effective tax rates were calculated by dividing the Property Tax collected by the total weighted assessments for each municipality. This total does not include Education Taxes.

Section Three- Pro Forma 2017 Taxes by Property Assessment

The tables below provide a summary of sample Property Tax, Education Tax and Total  taxes for properties in the municipalities. A selected number of assessments have been chosen for the sake of simpleness. Calculating other values is as simple as multiplying one of the defined figures by the appropriate factor. For example, a $200,000 assessment in Carling would have a Total Tax of $1,232 ((200,000/25000) x $1,540). Property and Education Taxes unlike income taxes are not progressive. The values chosen reflect a variety of real world assessment values. While there are no $1 million or $5 million residential properties in Parry Sound there are commercial and industrial properties with valuations on this order. In contrast there are a limited number of commercial properties with these valuations in McDougall, Seguin and Carling, but there certainly are numerous residential properties.

Table 3 – Residential Property Taxes for Defined Assessment Values (Pro Forma)

 

Table 4 – Commercial Property Taxes for Defined Assessment Values (Pro Forma)

 

Table 5 – Industrial Property Taxes for Defined Assessment Values (Pro Forma)

 

Reflections and Next Steps

As promised, there are lots of numbers. Getting a handle on these figures, which represent the current taxation situation, is critical to understanding where taxes and tax rates might head in the case of amalgamation.

The next post will provide some comments on the numbers presented in this post regarding the apparent similarities and differences in taxation approaches taken by the  municipalities. The next post will also take a look brief look at Muskoka and what types of ‘flexibility’ there might be with regards to amalgamation taxes.

(Note: I also link this post to Facebook for the convenience of some readers. I do not monitor comments or questions on Facebook. You can reach me by posting comments at this WordPress sight or by email – parrysounds at gmail.com.)

Council Agenda Preview – March 5, 2019

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This coming week sees a rather full meeting agenda for Town of Parry Sound Council. The notable items are briefly commented upon below. The agenda itself follows.

Closed Session b) – proposed or pending acquisition or disposition of land by the municipality or local board: (property appraisal). I wonder if this has anything to do with the property the Town purchased from the Province on Oastler Park Drive across from the Canadian Tire building.
Closed Session c) – labour relations or employee negotiations: (CAO employment agreement workplan).Hmmm!

9.3.1 Council Members 1/3 Tax Exemption. Councillor and Mayor remuneration is proposed to increase along with their benefits. The annual cost to the Town is about $35,000.

10.2.2- Site Plan Development Agreement with Infrastructure Ontario (OPP Station – 1 North Road). It looks as though the OPP facility move is ‘moving’ forward. That should mean a little less traffic in Town and ultimately the availability of prime waterfront real estate for development. A map showing the location of the new facility is included at the end of this post.

As always, refer to the full Council Agenda Package at the Town’s website for all included materials. The full package this week is 94 pages.

Heads Up – I have crunched the numbers on what amalgamation would likely mean for individual municipality tax rates. I’ll roll out the analysis in series of posts starting early this coming week.

Closed Session

b) personal matter about an identifiable individual, including municipal or local board employees: (EMS Advisory Committee Appointments);

c) proposed or pending acquisition or disposition of land by the municipality or local board: (property appraisal);

d) labour relations or employee negotiations: (CAO employment agreement workplan);

e) litigation or potential litigation, including matters before administrative tribunals, affecting the municipality or local board: (assessment appeal); (property matter);

Correspondence

4.1– Ed Horba, Project Manager, Transportation, GHD. Noise By-law exemption request for Highway 400 work at Parry Sound

4.2– Stephannie MacDonald, Town resident. Appreciation for Operations staff’s work fixing watermain break on February 24th on Riverdale Road

4.3– Marsha Rivers, CEO, Belvedere Heights. 2019 Municipal Levy for Belvedere Heights.

4.4– Rebecca Pollock, Chair, Parry Sound Active Transportation. Request to allocate in the 2019 budget, monies to determine the feasibility of applying the road diet concept to Parry Sound’s arterial roads, including any necessary engineering and planning reviews.

4.5– Leah Harris, Town resident. Request that after-hours water service bills to shut off water be removed from their account.

4.6– Municipality of Neebing. Request for resolution of support to appeal to both AMO and ROMA to split Zone 9 into 2 geographical districts; and to ROMA, to limit the vote to one per municipality at its annual general meeting election for zone representation.

Deputations

5.1– John Cochrane, Near North District School Board Trustee Zone 4. Update on new Parry Sound High School

5.2– Becky Pollock, Executive Director, Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve. Proposed “Community Energy Plan” for the biosphere region

Resolutions and Direction to Staff

9.1.1– 2018 Water System Summary Report. Resolution. Whereas the Town of Parry Sound owns and operates the Parry Sound Drinking Water System (M.O.E. Designation Number 2200000585) which has been categorized as a “Large Residential” Drinking Water System, and Whereas Ontario Regulation 170/03 (as amended) under the Safe Drinking Water Act S.O. 2002, C. 32 requires, according to “Schedule 22 Summary Reports for Municipalities” that all large Municipal Residential Drinking water systems have a report prepared no later than March 31st of each year addressing the items detailed in the Regulation, and that the report is given to members of Council in the case of a drinking water system owned by a municipality;
Therefore, be it resolved that Council of the Town of Parry Sound hereby acknowledges receipt of the report titled: “Town of Parry Sound Tony Agnello Water Treatment Plant, Large Municipal Residential Drinking Water System Summary Report 2018”, as prepared by Kyle Hall, Manager of Water Systems.

9.1.2– RFP – Biosolids Haulage & Beneficial Re-use/Disposal. Resolution. That Council accepts the proposal from WESSUC Inc. for biosolids haulage and beneficial re-use/disposal in the all-inclusive amount of $20.33/ mÑfor a three-year term,to:
1. Locate, licence, certify or re-certify field(s) as or when required for the purpose of biosolids application and beneficial re-use, including soil testing and pH adjustment as required;
2. Provide the Town, the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks and farmers with all required documentation;
3. Haul and apply biosolids on licenced disposal sites.
This proposal being the lowest of two proposals received.

9.1.3– 2019 Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiatives Annual Conference. Resolution. That pursuant to By-law 2002-4549 which requires prior Council approval for attendance at seminars, conferences and conventions outside the Province of Ontario; Council authorizes the Director of Public Works to attend the 2019 Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiatives Annual Conference to be held in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, June 5 – 7, 2019.

9.2.1– Revision to 2018 Land Ambulance Budget. Resolution. That the Council of the Town of Parry Sound approve the revised 2018 Land Ambulance Budget that includes an additional $309,357 incurred for higher than normal sick time occurring in the 2018 fiscal year.

9.3.1– Council Members 1/3 Tax Exemption. Direction. That staff be directed to implement remuneration increases of elected officials retroactive to January 1, 2019, as recommended in this report and consistent with Council direction as set-out in By-law 2015 – 6554.
Direction for Staff Follow-up: That staff bring Council group benefits options (health/dental) for consideration to a future Council meeting.
Direction for Staff Follow-up: That upon approval of Council direction regarding: remuneration increases retroactive to January 1, 2019; and consideration of Council group benefits (health, dental); staff present a comprehensive compensation by-law for Council members to a future Council meeting.

9.3.2– Request for Faster Response time from Provincial & Federal Grant Funding Authorities. Resolution. Whereas the Town of Parry Sound supports Bill 47, Making Ontario Open for Business Act, 2018; and
Whereas the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC) promotes and stimulates economic development initiatives in Northern Ontario by providing financial assistance to projects that foster the economic growth and diversification of the region; and
Whereas the NOHFC Northern Business Opportunity Program provides funding which is of special interest to small and medium-sized advanced manufacturing businesses from outside of Northern Ontario; and Whereas such businesses wish to establish their operations in Northern Ontario with support of the NOHFC funding; and
Whereas processing of NOHFC Business Expansion and New Investment Projects applications currently takes more than 8 months;
Whereas lengthy processing times are a challenge in Northern Ontario where construction seasons are shorter due to the climate and various environmental restrictions at certain times of the year; and Whereas, in some cases, lengthy approvals result in losing out on investment opportunities and applicants abandoning their applications and their plans to locate in Northern Ontario; and Whereas these delays adversely affect the objectives of the Program.
Now therefore be it resolved that the Town of Parry Sound supports the Provincial Government’s focus on how to cut government red tape, improve government programs and services; and That NOHFC Business Expansion and New Investment funding application procedures and processing times should be reviewed with the objective of reducing approval timelines to 6 months or less. That NOHFC expedite the application process by retaining more than one audit firm to undertake the auditing of the applications. That a copy of this resolution be forwarded to: the Honourable Vic Fedeli, MPP, Minister of Finance; the Honourable Greg Rickford, MPP, Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines/Minister of Indigenous Affairs; Mr. Norman Miller, MPP, Parry Sound – Muskoka.

9.3.3– Director of Finance Recruitment – Sub-Committee of Council Appointments. Direction. That pursuant to the Town hiring policy, the Sub-Committee for the hiring of the Director of Finance position be composed of the following Members of Council:
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9.4.1– Motorized Mobile Ice Cream Truck. Resolution. That Council for the Corporation of the Town of Parry Sound hereby grants permission for Mr. J. Athanasiou to operate one motorized mobile ice cream truck for the time period of May 10th, 2018 to September 30, 2018 on municipally owned roads and lands of the Town of Parry Sound subject to the following conditions:
Note: see full agenda for details. (Not included in this Council Agenda Preview)

9.5.1– “Right to Approve” Landfill Developments. Resolution.
WHEREAS municipal governments in Ontario do not have the right to approve landfill projects in their communities, but have authority for making decisions on all other types of development;
AND WHEREAS this out-dated policy allows private landfill operators to consult with local residents and municipal Councils, but essentially ignore them;
AND WHEREAS Ontario’s proposed “Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan” states that the province will grant municipalities a “greater say in siting of landfills”;
AND WHEREAS municipalities already have exclusive rights for approving casinos and nuclear waste facilities within their communities, whether to host cannabis retail in their communities, AND FURTHER that the province has recognized the value of municipal approval for the siting of power generation facilities;
AND WHEREAS the recent report from Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner has found that Ontario has a garbage problem, particularly from Industrial, Commercial and Institutional (ICI) waste generated within the City of Toronto, where diversion rates are as low as 15%;
AND UNLESS significant efforts are made to increase recycling and diversion rates, a new home for this Toronto garbage will need to be found, as landfill space is filling up quickly;
AND WHEREAS municipalities across Ontario are quietly being identified and targeted as potential landfill sites for future Toronto garbage by private landfill operators;
AND WHEREAS other communities should not be forced to take Toronto waste, as landfills can contaminate local watersheds, air quality, dramatically increase heavy truck traffic on community roads, and reduce the quality of life for local residents;
AND WHEREAS municipalities should be considered experts in waste management, as they are responsible for this within their own communities, and often have decades’ worth of in-house expertise in managing waste, recycling, and diversion programs;
AND WHEREAS municipalities should have the exclusive right to approve or reject these projects, and assess whether the potential economic benefits are of sufficient value to offset any negative impacts and environmental concerns;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Town of Parry Sound calls upon the Government of Ontario, as part of its “Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan” to formally entrench the right of municipalities to approve or reject landfill projects in or adjacent to their communities;
AND THAT in the case of a two-tier municipality, the approval be required at both the upper-tier and affected lower-tier municipalities;
AND FURTHER THAT the Town of Parry Sound encourage all other municipalities in Ontario to consider this motion calling for immediate provincial action;
AND THAT the MOTION adopted by Council be forwarded to the DEMAND THE RIGHT COALITION OF ONTARIO MUNICIPALITIES.

By-laws

10.2.1– Appointment of Will Williamson as a Building Inspector. By-law 2019-6898. Being a By-law to appoint Will Williamson as a Building Inspector for the Town of Parry Sound.

10.2.2– Site Plan Development Agreement with Infrastructure Ontario (OPP Station – 1 North Road). By-law 2019-6899. Being a By-law to authorize a Site Plan / Development Agreement with Infrastructure Ontario (OPP Station – 1 North Road).

Council Agenda Notes – February 19, 2019

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Here are some quick note/comments about yesterday evening’s meeting of the Town of Parry Sound Council. Rather than record and edit the video, this summary proves a link to the recording on YouTube and identifies the timings for the relevant sections. It’s easy enough to just scrub forward and watch the sections that are of most interest.

Questions of Staff:

Pothole repairs – they are underway as weather permits (0:01:40)
Budget Status – Late March or Early April (0:02:56)

Council Reports – Nothing caught my attention, but I did skip through it. (0:36:30)

DBA Appointments – It seems that change is in the offing. (0:51:20)

9.2.1 – Seguin Zoning Comments. Nothing new here but the benefit of the Town offering comments is that it permits the Town of Parry Sound to file a later appeal. (I’ve been through something similar and suggest that case law is not supportive of a successful appeal of a neighbouring municipality’s zoning decision.) (0:52:30)

9.3.1 – Council Members 1/3 Tax Exemption. This item was postponed until the next meeting when a full council was present – two members were absent. (0:57:30)

9.3.3- Economic Development Report. There seems to be quite a bit of activity ongoing to attract businesses to Parry Sound. I wonder though if most of the benefits will accrue to our neighbouring municipalities given the availability of land and lower taxes. The Town of Parry Sound, in theory at least, does not provide financial incentives for new businesses to help subsidize cost differentials. But even more businesses in the larger area will be good for the Town. It’s worth watching to get an update. (1:03:45)

Here is a link to the full meeting video on YouTube.

Council Agenda Preview – February 19, 2019

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I want my 2019 Draft Budget (to the tune of I want my MTV). I can empathize with the Town’s challenges with regards to their Finance Director, but that is where senior management is supposed roll up their sleeves and get it done. Stuff happens but we still get the roads plowed, if not in the next hour or two, at least in the next six hours. Even the Director of Operations will get behind the wheel if necessary. I am concerned that we will have a budget administered to us without any public review and input. I am usually sympathetic to the challenges of running any type of operation but this is starting to have overtones of negligence.

There really is nothing of importance on the agenda. The finance folks are investing time in making sure that members of Council are properly topped up with respect to salaries (Item 9.3.1). Council and Staff are spending time on telling our neighbours what they would, and would not, like them to do with the zoning of their properties (Item 9.2.1). It’s a bit like asking your neighbour for input on an in ground swimming pool you are planning to have installed and they say they would rather you didn’t. What are you going to do?

We finally get a report from the Economic Development Officer (Item 9.3.3).

Council and Community Member remunerations are reported (Item 9.4.1). I have pasted the most relevant tables from that section at the end of this Council Agenda Preview.

One last thought: Where is the draft 2019 budget?

Closed Session

b) personal matters about an identifiable individual, including municipal or local board employees (Planning Matter); (Board Appointments).

Correspondence

4.1– Marion Cross. Recycling Policy at BOCC.

4.2– Georgian Bay Forever. Requesting partnership support regarding Divert & Capture Program: The Fight to Keep Microplastics out of our Water.

4.3– Chris Cardy. Rotary Splash Pad Positive supporters advocacy to install Splash Pad.

4.4– Anna May Gillingham. Concerns about sidewalk conditions on William Street.

Deputations

5.1– Mayor Ted Comiskey, Town of Ingersoll. Ontario Municipalities Demand of “Right to Approve” Landfill Sites in jurisdiction.

5.2– Christina Bossart, Ian Sproule. Hidden Bay March Break Camp.

Resolutions and Direction to Staff

9.2.1– Comment on Seguin Zoning By-law Amendment Application. That Council directs staff to advise the Township of Seguin that Parry Sound Council is generally supportive of regional economic development initiatives and requests that:
1. The property be rezoned to a site-specific zoning category rather than a general C3 Zone that only permits the requested uses;
2. Outlet retail uses be defined to ensure that they are not uses which would be more suitably located within the Town of Parry Sound as per Section 1 of the PPS or which would negatively impact the vitality and viability of the Parry Sound Downtown (ex. beer or liquor stores, banks or boutique retail uses);
3. Innovative technology-type uses be specifically defined in a manner which ensures they are not uses which compete with the Seguin Airport Industrial Park (in which the Town is a partner), which would be more suitably located in a serviced Settlement Area or negatively impact the environment;
4. The Zoning By-law Amendment specifically note that municipal water and sewer services will not be provided to the subject property unless the property becomes part of the Town of Parry Sound. This is to ensure the natural environment is protected and that any potential developer does not have expectations about the extension of Town of Parry Sound municipal services;
5. The appropriate studies are undertaken and implemented to ensure the protection of the natural environment, which includes the northerly waterbody (Anderson Lake) which is partially within the Town of Parry Sound, or the property be split zoned to ensure these commercial uses do not have a negative impact upon the waterfront’s features and functions; and
6. The Township of Seguin provide a notice of decision to the Clerk of the Town of Parry Sound.

9.3.1– Council Members 1/3 Tax Exemption. Direction. That staff be directed to implement remuneration increases of elected officials retroactive to January 1, 2019, as recommended in this report and consistent with Council direction as set-out in By-law 2015 – 6554.
Direction. That staff bring Council group benefits options (health/dental) for consideration to a future Council meeting.
Direction. That upon approval of Council direction regarding: remuneration increases retroactive to January 1, 2019; and consideration of Council group benefits (health, dental); staff present a comprehensive compensation by-law for Council members to a future Council meeting.

9.3.2– Bobby Orr Gift Shop Renovation. Resolution. THAT the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame gift shop renovation budget of $50,000 be approved; and the required funds be withdrawn from the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame Special Projects Reserve Fund.

9.3.3– Economic Development Report. Presentation for Council Information.

9.4.1– 2018 Statement of Remuneration to Council and Board Members. Resolution. That the 2018 Statement of Remuneration Paid to Council and Appointed Board Members, attached as Schedule “A”, be accepted.

By-laws

10.4.1– Debenture By-law. By-law 2019 – 6896. Being a By-law to Authorize the Borrowing Upon Amortizing Debentures in the Principal Amount of $4,585,451.59 Towards the Cost of the Reconstruction of William Street with Drainage Improvements, and Reconstruction of Emily St.

Council Agenda Notes – February 5, 2019 (edit 2019-02-13)

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I have removed the link to the abridged version of the council meeting. My bandwidth limit was used up. I’ll have a different approach for the upcoming meeting that shouldn’t have the same bandwidth issues. The Town’s video link is still available.)

I’m trying something a little bit different with this post. Some short comments on the past Town of Parry Sound council meeting stream, and an abridged version of the stream for those interested in what I consider to be the key issues discussed at the meeting.

The full council meeting video is available online and lasts a little over 2 hours. My edited version of the meeting is a little bit over 42 minutes, a savings of about two-thirds. I have included all of the meeting discussion for the selected items to ensure that there is nothing ‘lost in translation’.

The items covered (with start time if you want to skip ahead) are:

  1. Questions of Staff – Snow Removal Policy and Realities 0.00.10
  2. Item 7.1 – Town Staff Salary Adjustment 0.04.32
  3. Item 9.1.2 – Smelter Wharf Culvert Replacement 0.5.15
  4. Item 9.1.1 – Four Way Stop Isabella & Gibson 0.19.31
  5. Item 9.2.1 – Seguin Zoning By-law Amendment 0.29.59

In some cases the discussions went on too long in my opinion. A couple of my thoughts on the issues:

Item 9.1.2 – A contract is a contract. I think the Town is being very generous. Council has been much tougher on homeowners who do not have the resources of a major corporation. These developers would not be here if they weren’t able to make money. And had they known what was under the ground they of course would never have agreed to the contract. Had I known how Apple stock would do I would have bought shares 15 years ago.

Item 9.2.1 – Really? You want to tell Seguin what they can do with their land? I think the advice suggested in the R&R was appropriate. Advise them that property owners will not be eligible for Town services. Putting retail on this plot of land is a smart business move if the environmental requirements can be met and the businesses won’t require Town services. A $50,000 municipal tax bill in Parry Sound would be only $20-25,000 on this property. (Note: school taxes are not included. They are based on assessment not municipal struck tax rates.) That’s a big savings. In the end Council decided to start discussions with Seguin to add the property to the Town of Parry Sound. Good luck on that. We know what happened last time when the property owners in a neighboring section of Seguin were asked the question. What you want and what you can demand or negotiate are two separate things. Ask the orange guy who is the self titled ‘master of the deal’.

Here is the link (removed 2019-02-13) to the abridged 2019-02-05 council meeting video. I am hosting the video on a service I contract with. The full version of the meeting is available on YouTube through this link.