“ BMRA serves in an advocacy role with Town Council and staff on behalf of ratepayers to ensure and enhance our community’s quality of life.”

“Keeping the BMRA membership informed”

Town of Blue Mountains Relationship with Grey County – Striving for Fair Value

The TBM / Grey County Task Force has been restarted, with a couple of meetings held between Mayor Soever, Deputy Mayor Bartnicki, and Councillor Sampson, with County Warden Selwyn Hicks and three other County representatives. The objective for the group is to identify and address programs or expenditures where TBM is not receiving fair value for the contribution we make to County tax revenues.

The need for this activity was made perfectly clear during the last County – TBM Task Force meeting of Monday June 17. During this session, it was suggested that the share of County tax revenues paid by TBM could rise from the current 26% level to 32%, or even 38% over time, which the County Warden acknowledged was conceivable. This would be reflective of TBM property values continuing to increase at a greater rate than the other municipalities in Grey. This development would be extremely problematic for TBM and its residents, for two critical reasons. 

First, the demands for expanding TBM infrastructure given our continuing high growth rate must be addressed. It will be critical that we have sufficient revenue to support that investment – in water, roads, attainable housing, health care – necessary to maintain our community’s quality of life. Sending too great a portion of our TBM tax revenues to the County would definitely compromise our ability to meet our own spending needs. In fact, our growing infrastructure requirement means we do not in fact have a surplus of funds to support a greater share of County funding. This concern is only heightened by the looming cuts in Provincial transfers to municipalities – projected by financial analysts to possibly total $2 Billion over the next 10 years.

The second and more urgent concern regarding the anticipated increase in our County tax levy is TBM residents’ ability to pay. The rise in our taxes would be driven by increased property valuations. While the Town could adjust our mill rate to keep the Town portion of our taxes moderated, the County levy is applied equally to all municipalities in Grey. The County could not reduce our rate independently of the other municipalities – therefore our County tax levy would increase relative to those other municipalities. This is what would lead to our share of County taxes jumping from 26%. The problem with this scenario is that while property values in TBM will have increased, our ability to pay is not enhanced by those valuation gains. A higher asset value for your residence does not put any extra dollars in your pocket, which is what you would need to pay increased property taxes. And we don’t think our residents should have to consider taking out a loan against their home equity to pay property taxes, which was actually floated as an option at an earlier County – TBM Task Force meeting!

So where does that leave us?  Well, the fact that the County is at the table with our Town representatives at least suggest they are willing to listen, and consider opportunities to better fulfill the needs of both the County and TBM. We therefore must be tabling proposals that will benefit TBM in a manner that would be manageable for the County.  These should include;

– pursue potential County / TBM service delivery efficiencies, which could result in changes in how services are delivered through the two levels of government

– identify innovative ways in which the County could support our growth requirements – an example might be making available County owned land for TBM attainable housing projects

– jointly lobby Queen’s Park for enhancements to regulations and processes that would provide us with extra value. The MPAC cost allocation model is one area worth investigating (this is the body that conducts property valuations as the basis for taxation rates)

In summary, TBM is facing significant capital (see attached Appendix) and operating budget challenges, and we require innovative program development, disciplined operating practices and some degree of restructuring of our funding model with the County. The BMRA will be advocating for the interests of our residents through the Town’s 2020 budget process, and will report back to our members regularly on progress made by Staff and Council in those efforts.