Effects of the Cost Sharing Agreement by the Numbers: Library Services

In 1983, the former Township of Ramsay voted not to increase the library grant it paid to both Almonte and Carleton Place. “In past years, the total amount has been divided up ‘two-thirds to Almonte, one-third to Carleton Place,'” according to John Souter, interviewed for the May 11, 1983 story by Susan Fisher of the Almonte Gazette. Ramsay paid $7,350 for both libraries at that time.

The amount of $7,350 is equal to $17,154.17 today, according to the Bank of Canada’s Inflation Calculator. So how did we get from $7,350 for both the Almonte and Carleton Place libraries to Mississippi Mills being asked for $61,775 for just the Carleton Place Library in 2021? What happened? The Cost Sharing Agreement in 1987 happened, also known as the “Howard Allan Agreement.” Howard Allan was/is an auditor for most of the local municipalities and also wrote the report on amalgamation promoting the cost savings that helped persuade Ramsay, Almonte and Pakenham to merge: “Almonte-Ramsay-Pakenham Best Option, Consultant”, Almonte Gazette January 15, 1997.

Under the current cost-sharing agreement, Mississippi Mills pays Carleton Place to allow Mississippi Mills and Beckwith residents to use their library at no cost. You can find my table of amounts paid since 2012 here.

Carleton Place recently shared with Mississippi Mills some of the user data for their public library:

2020 Carleton Place User Statistics

If we assume that the last two years were 2018 ($51,032.50) and 2019 ($57,554.50), then the total amount paid to Carleton Place for the 635 Mississippi Mills residents reported was $108,587.

The 2016 Census data for the two census dissemination areas around Carleton Place showed a population of 1,419. But let’s say that the population in 2020 has increased to 1,500. Dividing our recent payments for every person, adult or child, user or not, comes out to about $40. However, taking the 635 reported unique library users over two years works out to $90 if there were that many users in one year. If you take the two years of payments ($108,587) divided by the two years of users (635), we paid about $171 per user.

This is not what is charged CPPL users. This is what Mississippi Mills – all taxpayers – pay on their behalf, including those in Almonte and Pakenham. The calculation of the property assessments does not include any properties north of Wolf Grove or March Roads; but the payment of the calculation is on every ratepayers’ tax bill. Carleton Place’s decisions on expenditures also figure into the calculation. Ours do not.

So what does Carleton Place charge non-residents (residents of Ottawa, Carp, Perth, Ashton)? They have to pay more, right? And always have? Sorry, no:

Source: Carleton Place Public Library October 6 2020

A regrettable effect of this is that residents of both towns could use all libraries at no additional cost to any one community under a true reciprocal sharing agreement. We have one with Perth and Lanark. If you have a Mississippi Mills card, you can access their collections without paying a non-resident fee. You see, Carleton Place does charge a non-resident library fee of about $90 per user; users just don’t see us pay for it through everyone’s taxes.

There are a number of governance issues with funding a third library facility outside our own municipality when we already authorized a Board to run two facilities for residents; the Library Board will address this at the October 20 Council meeting. But what it means in real-life is that we have sent over $400,000 to Carleton Place for their library since 2012. Imagine if that money was used for our own facilities and staff. Maybe directing $60,000 to our own library reserves and expenses each year would pay off the $150,000 debt remaining on the Pakenham Library debt a bit quicker?

The truth is libraries are raucous clubhouses for free speech, controversy and community.

– Paula Poundstone

Thank you to the Mississippi Mills Public Library for allowing councillors, constituents and controversy to meet and the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum for hosting the Almonte Gazette archives.

Cost Sharing Response to Mayor

On her Facebook page, Mayor Lowry raised some issues with my motion on the Recreation and Culture Cost Sharing with Carleton Place.

Mayor Lowry used the amounts only up to 2019 to show that we have given Carleton Place just under a million dollars: $925,069.00. I used more recent numbers up to the amount already approved for 2020 ($149,832), totalling $1,074,901.00 (the amount the Treasurer estimated for 2021 is $154,330 by the way).

Our numbers are both from the same source: the Mississippi Mills Treasurer. This table below is what the Treasurer sent to the Library Board earlier this year, as the Board prepared its budget proposal for 2021. I used these numbers for my chart assuming them to be correct, but with an estimate for 2021. The amounts that I used that are prior to 2016 came from previous budget documents.

2021 Proposed Cost Sharing Budget

The increase of “approximately $50,000″

The increase of “approximately $50,000″ that I referenced is the difference between Carleton Place’s 2021 request for $154,330 and the 2016 amount of $104,650.50. The difference is exactly $49,679.50. I rounded. If you use different parameters, you will get different numbers.

Basis for Cost Assessment

Right now, whatever Mississippi Mills pays is calculated using the higher property values (residential and commercial) in the areas around Carleton Place. The 2016 dwelling value average for that part of Mississippi Mills was $399,150, while the average value across Mississippi Mills was $380,403. The results are therefore skewed in favour of Carleton Place. With average 2015 household incomes of $121,608 and $128,968 in the two dissemination areas border Carleton Place, compared to $97,795 in Mississippi Mills generally, one could argue that these residents can afford a levy or increased user fees instead of passing the costs for this agreement to all of Mississippi Mills.

The Mayor noted some subdivisions around Carleton Place. She omitted those that “abut” Almonte’s “boundary seamlessly” such as Greystone Estates and Munro Meadows. Many Almonte residents do go to Carleton Place for all kinds of things, particularly grocery shopping, where there is more competition. But we do have a library and an arena. The most additional distance any “South Ramsay” resident would have to travel to Almonte’s library in preference to Carleton Place’s would be about 11 km, and most of the north half of South Ramsay residents are actually closer to Almonte.

Fear Factor

Mayor Lowry’s post insinuates legal action by Carleton Place (“Beyond being unneighbourly, Council may find there are legal ramifications to permanent decisions made without consulting the other two municipal parties”) and suggests there may be a withdrawal of the automatic aid fire services from Mississippi Mills, in vindictive retaliation I suppose. Not a worthy argument and not a comparable agreement.

I don’t believe that a court would rule that a municipal council has no authority or control over its own expenditures and that another municipality can stipulate via a formula unrelated to usage what it pays for residents to access facilities, forever. There is no exit clause, but there is no binding stipulation.

Contrary to her assertion, Council did have at least one opportunity to hear Howard Allan explain the cost sharing agreement: at our briefing and training in early 2019. Some of us also attended the first cost sharing meeting of this term, where Mr Allan went into more detail about the calculations. The previous Council also voiced its concerns to the parties in 2016.

Benefits and Costs

The benefit that Mayor Lowry ascribes to the 1419 residents of the two dissemination areas would amount to $106 per resident (using the 2019 amount of $149,832 divided by 1419) or about $272-$287 per household. Remember that while this is a special amount paid only because of these residents, it comes out of Mississippi Mills revenues. No other part of the municipality benefits in this way. Note that the Howard Allan agreement also includes the assessment of commercial properties.

The property assessments for residents of Greystone Estates are included in the calculation see the map below to give an idea of how far it extends: right up to Almonte (reference: Howard Allan Agreement Addendum of November 2000, page 12).

Almonte has sewer and water services that are not subsidized by ratepayers outside Almonte, and only service users pay for it. If the same approach was taken, Ramsay residents could continue to subsidize Carleton Place by using the Howard Allan method to pay for their preference of facilities via a levy without burdening the rest of the municipality. I would caution them to read the Howard Allan agreement first. Note that if you live just outside Almonte and are closer to Almonte recreation, we are assessed at 50%-60% on your behalf, the same as if you lived just outside Carleton Place. Commercial and farm properties add to the amount.

All of Mississippi Mills is assessed for a share of the pool, because:

“In terms of swimming pool services we have estimated the contribution rate to be 25% of the Town of Mississippi Mill’s (sic) weighted assessment. The reason for this is that swimming pool services should be available to all Mississippi Mills residents and therefore we feel that the scope of the participating assessment should not be limited to Ramsay Ward, as in the other two service areas.”

- Howard Allan Agreement Review November 2000, page 13

As noted, some people, including myself, have used the pool in Carleton Place. Other residents use pools in Arnprior, Ottawa and Perth. Only the Carleton Place pool is subsidized. Almonte and Ramsay also paid into its construction.

What would happen if we terminate?

It is important to remember that the resident location/property assessment issue is used only to determine what Mississippi Mills pays, not who pays. Then this cost is added to the budget and tax bill for all residents.

If Mississippi Mills terminates its agreement to pay, then all Mississippi Mills ratepayers, including the affected Ramsay residents, would see the money they have paid either eliminated or redirected towards Mississippi reserves or other items. Council needs to discuss this.

Carleton Place will then need to charge non-resident user fees and maybe higher fees to cover their costs. They will need to manage their own facilities at 100% if Beckwith also withdraws. Carleton Place residents may face a tax increase to cover their own facilities. If Mississippi residents prefer to continue the agreement, then an additional levy should be charged to ratepayers in the Howard Allan affected areas. The property values and household incomes in that area suggest that those residents “adjacent” to Carleton Place may be better able to afford such a levy.

It may be that Carleton Place might ban any users from their facilities, like Smiths Falls did recently to residents of Merrickville-Wolford who refused to pay Smiths Falls a share under a Howard Allan agreement. This is like “cutting off your nose to spite your face” in that the facility owner loses these revenues and it is nearly impossible to determine in the case of leagues or organizations.

The motion to terminate the Agreement cannot be unexpected to Carleton Place. The previous council gave notice in 2016 that it was unhappy with the agreement. Measures were taken then to try to bring the library “cost-sharing” into compliance with the law. Neither the former Library Board or the former council can irrevocably bind the present board and council. The agreement itself calls for review and admits its problems with subjectivity and lack of precedent. I am sure that Carleton Place council and residents would be sorry to see an end to the subsidy of their facilities. They would then be in our situation.

Mayor Lowry suggested that the first step should be to talk to Cost Sharing Committee. The mayor and CAO did that in 2016 and their request was defeated by that committee.

The way to bring up the issue is to make a motion and debate the merits. This keeps expenditure authority in our hands and does not delegate it to third parties to make our decisions. The service delivery review also raised a number of serious issues related to cost sharing and I will comment on those in another post. However, the mayor claimed that “Cost Sharing Agreement represents 4.1% of this total.” Actually, as verified by the Treasurer’s budget “pie” and the latest service delivery review, cost sharing is 4% of the Recreation budget and 8% of the Library budget:

2020 Recreation Budget Pie Cost sharing 4%- source : Treasurer
2020 Library Budget Pie cost sharing 8%- source: Treasurer

I encourage you to read the Howard Allan report and review for yourself, and look at the history. The rising property assessments on which this agreement is based escalate our costs in times like this, on depreciating facilities that have not even been open lately.

The bottom line in my opinion is that it does not make sense for residents to pay for the costs of a third library and a third arena when we have two of each of these facilities in the Municipality, and multiple choices for swimming beyond our borders. The costs of recreational choices should be borne by the chooser.

Ontario Government postpones property tax reassessment

The Ontario government announced on Wednesday March 25 that it would postpone property reassessments. in light of the COVID-19 crisis. That means that the valuation for the 2021 assessments will be based on the same valuation date as 2020. In addition, the Province announced that it would permit tax payment deferrals. See the Minister’s letter containing proposed details of payment extensions here:

http://www.almonteforall.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Ministers-Letter-to-Head-of-Council-March-27-2020.pdf

I expect that Council will discuss these matters shortly.

2019 Provincial Budget Notes

CREDIT: I have condensed these “highlights” from an information item sent to councillors by the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO). Neither they or I can warrant that these items are complete or will transpire as stated. I have put some items of local interest in bold type.

Balancing the budget by 2023-24. To 2023-24, total revenue is projected to grow at an average annual rate of 3%. Program expense over the same period is expected to grow at an average rate of 1%.

Deficits are projected as follows:
$11.7 billion in 2018-19, $10.3 billion in 2019-20, $6.8 billion in 2020-21, and $5.6 billion in 2021-22

Reform of social assistance is expected to save over $1 billion by “simplifying the rates, cutting administration and unnecessary rules, and more employment opportunities.”

No increase to the municipal share of the provincial gas tax program as was expected. “Currently it is $364 million to 107 municipal governments. The government will consult with municipalities to review the program parameters and identify opportunities for improvement.”

Municipalities will be allowed to designate public areas, such as parks for the consumption of alcohol. There are other alcohol reforms contained in the budget such as the creation of a tailgating permit for eligible sporting events and extending hours of service in licensed establishments to a 9 am start, seven days a week.

$3.8 billion for mental health, addictions and housing supports over 10 years, beginning with the creation of a mental health and addictions system.

In 2019–20, $174 million for community mental health and addictions services, mental health and justice services, supportive housing and acute mental health inpatient beds.

(Jan’s Note: to put this into perspective, at their last meeting on April 10, 2019, Lanark County’s Social Services Committee received a report about either renovating or rebuilding Lanark Lodge, with the cost of either estimated at $73-$75 million).

A review of property assessment to:

  • “Enhance the accuracy and stability of property assessments;
  • Support a competitive business environment;
  • Provide relief to residents”; and
  • Changes to the composition of the Board of the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) to increase the representation of property taxpayers, diluting the proportion of current municipal government representatives, according to AMO.

Public health in 2019-20:

  • “adjusting provincial-municipal cost sharing of public health funding;”
  • By 2020-21, establish 10 regional public health entities and 10 new regional boards of health with one common governance model; saving $200 million annually by 2022.
  • Integrating Ontario’s 59 emergency health services operators (e.g. 52 EMS, Ornge) and 22 provincial dispatch communication centres.

Increasing the supply of housing through a “Housing Supply Action Plan;” details not provided, but to follow

Municipalities will be required to provide real-time reporting of sewage outflows and the government will update policies related to municipal wastewater and stormwater.

Create 15,000 new long-term care beds over the next five years and upgrade 15,000 older long-term care beds to provide more appropriate care to patients with complex health conditions. In addition to the over 6,000 new beds previously allocated, 1,157 new long-term care beds will immediately be allocated to 16 projects across the province.

“Exploring revenue sharing, including Northern communities, in the mining, forestry, and aggregates sectors.”

The Ontario Provincial Police
“Encourage workforce optimization, including vacancy management, overtime and scheduling” to save $30 million annually starting in 2019-20 without impacting front-line policing and community safety.

$16.4 million over two years to create a province-wide strategy to help combat gun and gang related crime.

The government will invest $315 million over five years as part of its Broadband and Cellular Strategy which will be released later this year.

A new CARE (Ontario Childcare Access and Relief from Expenses) tax credit would provide about 300,000 families with up to 75 per cent of their eligible child care expenses and allow families to access a broad range of child care options, including care in centres, homes and camps.

Individual seniors with annual incomes of $19,300 or less, or senior couples with combined annual incomes of less than $32,300, will be able to receive dental services in public health units, community health centres and Aboriginal Health Access Centres across the province.

Reviewing the forestry sector to develop a strategy that includes: challenges the industry currently faces; initiatives to encourage innovation and reduce red tape; and methods to promote made-in-Ontario wood products.

Consultations on the repeal of the Far North Act, removing red tape on economic development projects like the Ring of Fire. Environmental assessment studies have been initiated for all-season access roads to the Ring of Fire.

Development of an immigration pilot initiative across Ontario. The budget also proposes changes to the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program aimed at modernizing the program to better address labour market shortages.

Energy conservation and efficiency programs will be phased out, saving up to $442 million.

A return to the default benefit limit of $2 million for those who are catastrophically injured in an accident, after it was previously reduced to $1 million in 2016.



Come to the Public 2019 Budget Meeting

Residents of Mississippi Mills are invited to share their comments on the proposed 2019 budget on

Thursday, April 4, 2019 at 6 pm

in the Council Chambers at 3131 Old Perth Road.

The link to all the details in the last draft budget presented to Council by staff on March 12 is here:

https://icreate4.esolutionsgroup.ca/230002_iCreate_NewsModule//Management/Attachment/Download/e4ce3e3d-660c-4458-9390-0836ee578d70

The Municipal invitation and link to the agenda and a slide show on the budget is here:

https://www.mississippimills.ca/en/news/index.aspx?page=4&newsId=e568b168-a4b1-4fbd-8f3f-d5e82d88370b