TBM to re-examine its relationship with Gray County

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“Frankly, StatsCan has shown how out of whack we are when it comes to growth when it comes to other municipalities in Gray County,” the councilman said. rob sampson

The City of The Blue Mountains (TBM) is looking to re-examine its relationship with Gray County, due to the large financial contributions the city is making to the county as it experiences rapid growth.

In 2022, TBM will contribute nearly 30% of the county’s total tax revenue.

In the 2021 census, the city was listed as the second fastest growing municipality in Canada, with its population jumping by more than 33% between 2016 and 2021.

In a notice of motion dated February 28, Con. Rob Sampson argued that the city’s financial contributions to the county are hampering its ability to effectively manage growth.

“It is frankly punitive for us to be by far the fastest growing municipality in a two-tier municipal structure, in terms of taxes that end up flowing to the upper tier that we could benefit from at the lower tier for infrastructure. investments,” he said.

“It helps to have growing and growing municipalities in a [two tier] structure to support that growth across the county,” he said. “It doesn’t help that it’s done consistently, year after year, because what it does, it steals… our ability at the local level to fund things like recreation centres, roads and the like. important infrastructure that essentially supports this growth.”

Sampson argued that one of the problems with a two-tier governance structure is that tax rates are not equalized for fast-growing municipalities.

“The way municipal financing works is that presumably the rates are lowered when [assessment values] are increased, so the net impact on taxpayers should be stable,” he said. “The problem is in two or more tier municipal structures, if you have above average growth then you will end up not getting the equalized rate … you will be penalized and this has happened to us consistently for the last number years.”

“Frankly, Statistics Canada has shown how out of whack we are in terms of growth when it comes to other municipalities in Gray County. »

Council directed staff to prepare a report examining the financial contributions the city has made to the county, with respect to investments made in the city, and to consider the impact on ratepayers if a Bay Regional Government South Georgian was formed, consisting of Meaford, Gray Highlands, Collingwood, Clearview and Wasaga Beach.

Mayor Alar Soever argued that TBM receives relatively few services from the county.

“County lines were established 100 years ago and growth has happened as it has happened,” he said. “When you look at service delivery, for example, the county is currently centered on Owen Sound and…in Hanover, and there’s the Highway 6 and 10 corridor.”

Soever said a large variation in housing values ​​across the county caused TBM to pay significantly more taxes.

“Simcoe County’s tax rate is lower than Gray County’s tax rate, and that’s because … assessments are higher on average, so you can have a lower tax rate and that’s is in terms of growth,” he said.

“Our assessments are twice per household what they might be in West Grey, Owen Sound, Hanover, like if you buy a $400,000 house in one of those communities, that same house here is $800,000 , which means your taxes are double.

Com. Jim Uram was sensitive to the issues raised by Sampson, but argued that the city should approach the province before considering changing its relationship with Gray County.

“Most of the issues we deal with Gray County, other upper-tier and lower-tier municipalities deal with as much as we do and may have the same issues,” he said.

“I wonder if this isn’t something that should be framed as a provincial issue, which should kind of look at the inequities between upper and lower tier municipalities quite aggressively and say, ‘Okay, how can we do we get the high growth areas to get a better proportion of the funding so they can grow properly? Does the province have a responsibility with regard to these high growth areas? »

Uram also pointed out that establishing a new regional government could be costly and changes to the governance structure itself might be the best way forward.

“I wonder how much this regional concept would cost us – where… would our new municipal building be, what kind of council would we have and how long would it take us to get to this avenue? Is there a way to achieve the same results by having the province look at municipal law and negotiating with those municipalities for shared services? he said.

“I think you’re going in the right direction by looking at this, but I wonder if we’re blaming the wrong people.”

Com. Andrea Matrosovs said she supports Sampson’s motion hoping it will bring more clarity to the city’s relationship with Gray County.

“He’s looking to get data compiled in front of us to decide where we could go with our neighboring partners, or neighboring municipalities or counties,” she said. “We can’t reach out and start taking action without having compiled this kind of information.”

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