County council supports Local Share resolution
Submitted photo Incorporated in 1861, the County of Renfrew is made up of 17 lower tier municipalities.
Renfrew County is backing a plan to add one per cent to the harmonized sales tax (HST) to help pay for municipal infrastructure.
County councillors passed a resolution that carried unanimously at their regular meeting last week supporting the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) in its efforts to secure new sources of revenue such as a portion of the HST. The motion was put forward by Renfrew Reeve Peter Emon and Admaston/Bromley Mayor Michael Donohue.
The AMO initiative is called Local Share, a new one per cent sales tax dedicated to help fund critical local services like roads, bridges and transit. Emon told his colleagues the goal is to reduce the pressure on property tax increases and provide municipal governments with a more diverse source of revenues.
“The County of Renfrew and the province of Ontario need and will continue to need a variety of dependable, multi-year and sustainable funding sources to repair, maintain and build stronger communities today and into the future,” said Emon.
A 10-year projection between 2016 and 2025 of municipal expenditures against inflationary property tax and user fee increases shows an unfunded annual need of $4.9 billion to fix infrastructure and provide municipal operating needs throughout the province. The one per cent is projected to garner about $2.5 billion in new revenue to be distributed based on a per-household formula to the municipalities.
Emon pointed out that municipal governments shoulder so much of the burden already, carrying the costs for fire, police, water and wastewater treatment, roads and bridges, public health and social housing, but receive only nine cents of every tax dollar in Ontario. Madwaska Valley Mayor Kim Love acknowledged that while no one likes tax increases this proposal is something the public will accept if they know it will be going to fix roads, community arenas and critical infrastructure.
“We can't continue to ignore our responsibilities because our assets are deteriorating,” said Love.
“This gap is real and this is a very logical approach being put forth by AMO,” added Donohue.
Petawawa Mayor Bob Sweet has been calling for a sustainable funding model for years noting that the provincial transfer payment from the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF) continues to decrease. He feared however that should Queen's Park adopt Local Share they may find the money to make up for it with another download.
“This gives us sustainable funding and we've argued for that for years,” said Sweet. “If they give it to us, they shouldn't take it away from us somewhere else.”
Given that 2018 is an election year, many around the council table expect sustainable infrastructure funding to be a key issue. The resolution will be sent to Premier Kathleen Wynne and the opposition leaders.