Blue Mountain Ratepayers' Association

Does our next TBM council face tough choices?

It’s important to remember that only 38% of your property tax dollars goes to The Blue Mountains, while 40% goes to Grey County and 22% to education.

A recent  Op-Ed in the Owen Sound Sun Times would suggest that other Councils, in this case the City of Owen Sound, are worried that they will face serious challenges and are looking for sustainable ways to deal with their essential services.

Will Grey County be taken to task by more than one lower tier municipality? TBM plus Owen Sound? Here is the article:

 

Tough choices await next city council  

Can Owen Sound continue operating as it has?

Probably not in the long term, and the tough decisions may well land in the lap of the people we vote for in a few weeks.

Simply put, the city’s sources of income are only keeping pace with the rising expenses because of annual property tax increase, which for homes have been in the three to four per cent range for years.

Those aren’t huge increases, but they are higher than the rate of inflation and when compounded over time they certainly add up.

The city has also increased what it charges for many fees, including water and sewer, over the years as well. The truth is the municipal costs of living in Owen Sound have gone more the residential tax increase would reflect.

Part of this is because the province has been cutting the city’s Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund money for years and all indications are it plans to continue doing so.

Over time, these trends will make the city a less attractive place for new development, which is needed to spread costs over more taxpayers. It’s a vicious circle.

We’ve covered the city’s budget sessions over the years and seen the efforts that go into trimming expenses and finding new ways to raise money. It’s actually a months-long process and a pretty good system that involved staff and council members chipping away at costs – but of course the other side of the coin is protecting city assets and offering services that the people have said they need or want.

But sooner or later the city is going to have to tackle more profound change, especially in the areas where the big money is being spent, if it wants to control rising costs.

That means the councilors we are going to elect this fall could very well be facing tough choices about fire and police services, although the police services board is the body that really oversees policing.

A little rounded math: about 60 cents of every property tax dollar collected in Owen Sound goes to the city, with the rest split pretty evenly between Grey County and education costs. Of the city’s share, police and bylaw costs take about 27%, fire about 17% and operations (things like public works) about 18%.

Many of the causes of the city’s challenges are beyond council’s power, such as global trade patterns and provincial and federal taxing and granting policies.

But finding a sustainable way to deal with these changes is going to land in council’s lap. Keep that in mind while deciding who to vote for, and listen for those who understand this problem

Doug Edgar

(Source: Reprinted from the Owen Sound Times)