Almaguin councils brace for another round of hefty policing increasesALMAGUIN – The second round of OPP cost increases is hitting municipalities just as hard as the first.
“We’ve cut everything we possibly can,” Ryerson Township Reeve Glenn Miller says.
“The cost of doing business with the OPP has just gone up and I don’t see any leeway right at the moment. We’re going to have it pass it on to our taxpayers.”
In 2015, the province put into effect a new billing model for the Ontario Provincial Police. Over the next four years, from 2015 to 2018, municipalities would gradually increase the levy paid for OPP services, meant to create equal billing across the province.
But many of Almaguin’s municipalities continue to feel the high costs are anything but equal.
“We’re looking at around $354,187 [for the year],” Magnetawan Mayor Sam Dunnett, whose municipality saw the highest monetary increase for Almaguin under the new OPP billing model, says.
“That’s approximately around $30,000 a month. When you put it into perspective, that’s a lot of money. But it’s right up there with things we don’t have any choice on. It’s the same with all the levies we get. This is being directed by the province. We have no say in it at all.”
The choice to revisit the OPP billing model was based on a 2012 Auditor General’s report indicating the then-OPP-billing model was out of date and needed to be adjusted. According to the OPP at the time, several municipalities were paying upwards of $800 per property, while others were paying just $10.
In August of 2014, after months of talks, the Ontario government voted through a new model, charging municipalities with a 60:40 formula — 60 per cent of the bill is a base cost of $200.51 per property, while 40 per cent is based on calls for service. This results in a cost per property that was given to each municipality.
Out of the 16 Almaguin municipalities serviced by the OPP, nine saw a substantial increase — the majority doubling, or even in some cases tripling, their OPP bill by 2018.
The Township of Ryerson is increasing roughly $25,000 per year. The Municipality of Magnetawan, $80,000 per year. And the Municipality of Whitestone, $70,000.
Whitestone also saw the highest overall increase. By 2018, its OPP bill will be 329 per cent higher than it was in 2015.
Whitestone Mayor Chris Armstrong says they are currently in budget discussions to figure out how to incorporate 2016’s cost.
“Right now, it is what it is,” Armstrong says.
“It’s about $100,000. Our revenue went up this year by assessment increase by about $75,000. We’re proposing a small tax rate increase but we haven’t finalized it yet.”
Whitestone was scheduled to have a budget meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 9, after the press deadline, to look at potential capital projects.
“Definitely our choices are either increase the taxes or reduce our services,” Armstrong says.
“We have a tight budget. We’re probably looking at delaying some capital projects we would have wanted to do this year, but we haven’t had those capital budget talks yet, so it’s hard for me to get a good read on what the final capital budget will look like.”
Whitestone had looked into potentially leaving the OPP to form a municipal police service with townships from West Parry Sound, but that idea has fallen flat.
“Everybody came back with ‘We’re not sure this will provide the cost savings we’re looking for so we’re sticking with the OPP,’ ” Armstrong says.
“I mean, the OPP provide excellent service to us. It’s the extra download from the province that’s our issue.”
That message is ringing true across Almaguin.
“I personally don’t complain about any of the services the OPP provide,” Dunnett, whose plan for incorporating 2016’s increase is “very thoughtfully and very carefully,” says.
“It just means unless we have a hefty tax increase, we’ve got fewer dollars to spend in the municipality. We always have to keep in mind anywhere between 25 to 30 per cent of the tax dollars collected is what we actually get to keep. The rest goes to outside levies that we have absolutely no input to. It’s just, they (the province) put their hands out and we give it to them. We’re basically tax collectors for the province.”
Dunnett says it’s the province, not the individual OPP detachments, that has to answer for the increasing costs.
“Certainly the province has to take a look at this whole OPP costing and go back to the model,” Dunnett says.
“And that’s the only way they’re going to save any money.”http://www.northbaynipissing.com/news-s ... e-to-rise/