County standing against OPP changes
|By Mark Arike - Staff Writer | February 13, 2014
The County of Haliburton’s treasurer, Laura Janke, has recommended that the county align itself with other rural municipalities that will see their policing costs skyrocket as a result of the OPP’s proposed new billing model.
“Everyone who is going up [in policing costs] is rural, everyone who is going down is urban,” Janke told members of the county’s finance and correspondence committee during a special meeting on Feb. 12.
“If we’re banding together with all of these other people who are losers, we need to find the most common grounds to fight on,” she said.
According to the OPP’s website, the proposed billing model would use a standard per household cost for base services that would be charged consistently to municipalities. Calls for service would be an additional variable cost based on frequency and type of calls in any given municipality.
Through discussions with the OPP and other municipalities, Janke and county staff gathered information to help county council better understand the negative financial impact the model would have on the entire community.
In 2014, the county’s policing costs are nearly $3.4 million. Under the new model, which is expected to be implemented next year, the total would increase by 150 per cent to just over $8.5 million, or $369 per household.
In her analysis, Janke learned that of the 323 municipalities across the province, 190 would see an increase in their policing costs.
“All of the urban centres are going down significantly,” she said. “The very highest is going down $4.2 million. The worst case scenario is going up $7.9 million – and that’s our neighbour Muskoka.”
Janke said that Muskoka’s policing costs would rise to $17 million.
Dysart reeve Murray Fearrey pointed out that one of the major flaws with a per household calculation is the fact that seasonal residents – those who represent 65 per cent of all households in the county – are included in the equation.
“Seasonal residents are pushing Muskoka and Haliburton right through the roof,” said Fearrey.
In her report, Janke explained that urban and rural municipalities have varying property tax assessment bases that “greatly impact how costs are apportioned among the residential, commercial and industrial taxpayers.”
Janke said that a per household cost leaves out the commercial and industrial sectors, and that according to the Municipal Act municipalities cannot charge ratepayers on a per household basis for any other services.
“Everyone I’ve talked to doesn’t think it should happen that way,” she said.
The solution Janke offered is based on weighted assessment, for example, the ability to pay.
“We need to make the case that this is hardship,” said Fearrey. “This is about something that we can’t afford. What do we want to do? Put people out on the street? This is real folks, this is the biggest thing that’s happened – ever – in our county to destroy us .”
Reid, who will represent the county on the Association of Municipalities of Ontario’s OPP billing steering committee, suggested that the county consider alternative policing services.
Councillors agreed that the county should engage in conversations with Muskoka and the City of Kawartha Lakes to see if they’d be interested in banding together to figure out alternatives to the proposed model.
“If smaller municipalities opt out of the OPP model, that’s going to create a fixed cost,” said Reid. “All of a sudden the winners are going to become the losers, because they’ve got infrastructure that they have to pay for.”
MARK ARIKE is a reporter for The Highlander and somehow also finds time to volunteer all over the place. You might have heard him on Go With the Flow with Mark and Mo on Canoe Radio (he’s Mark, obviously), and you might have seen him at the local bowling lanes working up a sweat. Mark probably understands technology more than most of us at The Highlander, so be sure to follow him on Twitter for news updates and thoughts as he’s out and about.