In early February, Mayor Scott McFadden and Deputy Mayor Matthew Graham hosted two Town Hall meetings to share their concerns regarding County Budget discussions to clarify their position and seek ratepayer input.
Cavan Monaghan is one of eight Peterborough County member municipalities which joined together to improve purchasing power in service procurement and to coordinate activities across the area. County-managed services include Emergency management, Planning, EMS/Ambulance services and waste management activities, along with County infrastructure such as County roads, bridges and the Court House.
Through property taxes bills, municipalities collect revenue on behalf of the County and local school boards in addition to funds for their own use. In 2019, the township retained 57 cents, the County received 29 cents and the school boards received 14 cents of every dollar of property tax collected. Last year, the township collected $4,322,577 on behalf of Peterborough County, representing just over 10% of the County Budget.
Using slides reflecting information provided by County staff to Council members, the speakers outlined some of their concerns with the audience. At issue is the township’s share of total infrastructure and development charge spending by the County.
Much of County spending is directed to infrastructure projects which are large and expensive. In anticipation of new asset management legislation, County representatives felt pressure to address their infrastructure gap by including a 2.5% special dedicated infrastructure tax levy increase to allow them to catch up. This special levy contributed to the final County budget increase of 5.54%. Our representatives hoped the County increase would be lower but were unsuccessful at convincing their fellow members to make budget cuts.
The bulk of infrastructure projects are reflected in a 20 year program called the Transportation Master Plan. We are ten years into that plan, which is under review. Our officials expressed concern about the lack of transportation projects in the township in the upcoming 10 years. They are looking for a mechanism to have new projects considered for the plan, as much can change over such an extended period of time, but they have not yet received support at the County for this request.
Another area of frustration surrounds new development. Among planners and politicians there is an ongoing debate about whether or not growth pays for itself or whether it creates additional financial burden for the host municipality. Development charges are paid by the property developer and are designed to offset the costs of new infrastructure and increased municipal services required to support new construction. A portion of development charges also flow to the County. The amount collected is directed related to new builds, which vary each year. Last year Development Charges from construction in Cavan Monaghan generated $687,829 for Peterborough County. In the six year period from 2012, Cavan Monaghan contributed $2,346,293 in development charges to the County, representing 22.5% of all Development Charges the County received during that period, while receiving only $404,140 of the spending from this pool.
In response to media reports about the Town Hall meetings, a press release was issued by the County discussing historical spending that was not discussed in the meetings by the Mayor and Deputy Mayor, saying that “over the past 10 years, more than 19% of the County’s road expenditures have been in the Township of Cavan Monaghan.” Mayor McFadden requested access to further documentation to support this assertion. His request was initially resisted but eventually approved and extended to all County Council members.
Cavan Monaghan representatives stated they were willing to “take their turn” for infrastructure spending, understanding there is a broader picture to consider, but are seeking evidence of support of the pressure created by growth the township is currently experiencing. While official comments referred to growth as “good fortune”, it comes with costs, and not just financial ones. Our Mayor and Deputy Mayor are seeking a more transparent and balanced allocation of development charge spending. Some residents would like that to take the shape of a new EMS base incorporated into our new Fire Hall when construction of this facility begins.
While Council members are not charged with delving too deeply into the operational details of the County, clear reporting is critical to making informed spending decisions that help ratepayers believe they are receiving value for their tax dollars. Members around the County Council table indicated a belief that the current Service Delivery Review will find ways to streamline services and improve reporting. Ratepayers across the County hope they’re right. KG