Dufferin’s towns have different ways of sharing urban services

April 22, 2015   ·   0 Comments

A capital budget discussion at Orangeville Council brought the issue of cost sharing between the town and its neighbouring municipalities to a head.

The contentious issue surrounded the need for the fire department to purchase a new tanker truck at a cost of about $500,000 and whether Mono, Amaranth and East Garafraxa would be paying their fair share for its use. One councillor went so far as to say, “Taxpayers in Orangeville can no longer afford to carry Mono and the others.”

As long-time CAO of the Town of Mono, Keith McNenly explained it this way: “The Town of Orangeville determined that their costs should be recovered by billing for fire calls on a per call basis, and for other services such as inspections at an hourly rate. Orangeville used the entire fire budget cost as the primary factor for calculating the amount to recover from Mono.

“To this was added overhead services from administrative building and administrative staff such as Orangeville treasury department, etc. so that all costs are recoverable through the agreement.

The total amount was indexed to increase each year by inflation using the CPI.  After a number of years on this formula and agreement, Orangeville determined that the amount of inflation did not keep up with the actual fire department budget increases, and proposed a change to the agreement with the Town of Mono to increase the fees by 10% per year in the last term of council and until the end of 2016, at which time the current agreement expires.

“Notwithstanding that the concept enshrined in the agreement formula is that Town of Mono will pay the same proportional amount for fire services as the Town of Orangeville, for both operating and capital, including capital for buildings, vehicles and equipment, the Town of Orangeville remains sole owner of the capital assets.  Essentially, the Town of Mono is a purchaser of fire services from the Town of Orangeville for a part of Mono as set out in the agreement.”

In North Dufferin there was a similar contention, this time over the North Dufferin Community Centre (Honeywood Arena) fees, played out between the Township of Mulmur and Melancthon in the early part of the year.

Melancthon Mayor Darren White says Mulmur came to Melancthon Council “asking for $25000 to help offset the deficit at the arena as they believe we are not paying our fair share.  We have been fully meeting our obligation under the agreement that we have with Mulmur.  We asked them to provide user information such as numbers of Melancthon users and information about their future plans for the arena, and then we would be able to discuss what our ‘fair share’ is.”

Heather Boston Mulmur’s Treasurer reported that over 40% of the users tracked through minor hockey and figure skating in the last three years came from Melancthon with the 2014/15 Season reflecting: Figure Skating: 5 from Mulmur, 13 from Melancthon;  and Minor Hockey: 32 Mulmur, 36 Melancthon, 39 Other.  Tracking the usage outside of those two groups would be difficult to monitor according to Boston and therefore Council’s plan was to “increase the prime rate to compensate for the non-resident usage.”

This month, Mulmur Council sent a delegation to Melancthon regarding the arena costs and as a result, Mayor White suggested a motion “which would see residents of Melancthon assessed a non-resident fee of $350 per person for minor hockey and figure skating.”  In addition, he said, the two municipalities will work together to “develop an agreement moving forward that would allow for a contribution towards capital at the arena.

“All residents that are affected will not be out of pocket, as the Township will cover the non-resident fee based on the numbers of Melancthon residents who register for hockey and/or figure skating.”

The mayor said Melancthon will require accurate information on users of the facility, and have asked for a voice at the table with regards to arena decisions. “We in Melancthon hope that this resolves this issue to the satisfaction of both parties moving forward.”

Responding to our request, former Shelburne Mayor Ed Crewson related a little history on a fire truck issue, similar to Orangeville’s cost-sharing dilemma, which was resolved in 2009.

“The ladder truck issue was debated long and hard,” he said, “because some of the rural municipal politicians believed that their residents did not need and would not use it. As a result, they did not support the purchase initially, but with more education about its uses on large structures like the Dufferin County Museum and potato storages and public schools, the majority of board members came to support its purchase.

“The Shelburne and District Public Library Board, the Centre Dufferin Recreation Complex, and The Shelburne and District Fire Board all work effectively because they give funding municipalities an opportunity to participate in the decision-making process of these service-providing organizations. The example of the ladder truck demonstrates that the board members, who are usually councillors, acquire expert training in the capital and equipment needs of the fire service and so can explain to the funding municipal councils, the budget requirements.”

John Telfer, Shelburne’s CAO, says that unlike Orangeville and Mulmur, the Town has three joint boards: Shelburne and District Fire Board, Shelburne Public Library Board and Centre Dufferin Recreation Complex Board of Management.

“Each board has different funding arrangements with its participating municipalities based on assessment, population, households etc and in the case of the Fire Department, also occurrences. Board representation for governance also differs depending on the particular board. These agreements are reviewed from time to time by the Boards and the participating municipalities.”

Mayor White of Melancthon summarized his feelings on cost sharing. “In a municipality like Dufferin County, we all need to work together effectively to provide the services our residents need.  Cost-sharing agreements that are based on actual usage amounts are the best way to handle this.

“There are some council members in the greater Dufferin County area that would have their residents believe that simply covering the costs is not enough.  They believe they should make a profit off the other municipalities or not provide the service at all.  I don’t agree with that. I think that smart fiscal planning and dialogue between all affected parties will result in agreements that are mutually beneficial.”

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