One of the biggest local news items of the past month has received remarkably little press coverage and municipal comment since the initial announcement. I am referring to the news that West Parry Sound municipalities had been successful in their application for a major grant from the Ontario government to build a new recreation centre (“da pool”).
Why the lack of follow up information about da pool and the upcoming schedule? One might think that this should in the news as much as the new school.
I suspect that there may be a case of cold wet feet among the various municipalities. We know that Whitestone has backed away from the initial level of support they offered. Rather than a cost sharing of the initial construction and an ongoing share of expenses they have offered a one-time investment in the project. Are the other municipalities thinking the same thing with a hope that they can leave the Town of Parry Sound holding the bag for operational cost and construction overruns?
It’s a tricky situation for the municipalities where seasonal residents have a disproportionate influence on municipal priorities and budgets. These seasonal folks for the most part don’t want access to a pool and recreation centre. In the summer they want to be on a lake or the bay, and in the winter, they have access to similar facilities back in the GTA. What they really want is lower taxes and cheaper/better internet. Da pool will increase taxes and have no impact on their internet.
Be careful what you ask for, you might get it, seems to capture the current situation. In the Town of Parry Sound we are familiar with larger projects and the associated costs. Our neighbours, except for their permanent residents, have no need for large capital projects or additional social services if they come with additional taxes. Even with a low tax rate a 1% increase in taxes for da pool can seem a cost too much if you have a $2 million ‘cottage’.
If you go back and read my comments about da pool, you will discover I have evolved on the issue. I am still not a big fan of da pool, but I recognize that it is important for many in the community. As member of the community, I am willing to accept the reality of da pool, the costs it will bring, and move on. My taxes will go up, but if it makes life better for the community it will be worth it.
Property Values and Assessments
I wonder what is going to happen with taxes and property valuations after the next IMPAC assessments. Property values have been skyrocketing in the area. It would not be unreasonable to think that property values have increased by 30% since the last assessment. If IMPAC increases property assessments to account for the increase in valuations, there will be a 30% increase in property taxes if tax rates are kept constant. That may mean we will be entering a phase where councils will be lowering tax rates, but taxes will still go up. Not quite Three-card Monte, but there is no way that taxes are going down regardless of tax rates reductions. It will be even more interesting because assessment increases are applied over a four-year period and will doubtless be applicable to almost all properties.
Let’s See What Happens
I’m looking forward to getting updates on da pool. I also expect that I will be reading about the ‘squirming’ our neighbours will be doing. The Town needs to hang tight and not agree to any proposed renegotiation that leaves the Town on the hook for a higher share of expenses. As they say in poker, if you don’t know who the sucker is, it’s you.